Relative amino acid concentrations as a signature for parent body processes of carbonaceous chondrites

Botta, O, Glavin DP, Kminek G, Bada JL.  2002.  Relative amino acid concentrations as a signature for parent body processes of carbonaceous chondrites. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 32:143-163.

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amino acids, asteroids, ci chondrites, comets, evolution, meteorites, murchison meteorite, murray, organic compounds, organic-molecules, parent body, solar system, tagish lake meteorite, thermal metamorphism


Most meteorites are thought to have originated from objects in the asteroid belt. Carbonaceous chondrites, which contain significant amounts of organic carbon including complex organic compounds, have also been suggested to be derived from comets. The current model for the synthesis of organic compounds found in carbonaceous chondrites includes the survival of interstellar organic compounds and the processing of some of these compounds on the meteoritic parent body. The amino acid composition of five CM carbonaceous chondrites, two CIs, one CR, and one CV3 have been measured using hot water extraction-vapor hydrolysis, OPA/NAC derivatization and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Total amino acid abundances in the bulk meteorites as well as the amino acid concentrations relative to glycine = 1.0 for beta-alanine, alpha-aminoisobutyric acid and D-alanine were determined. Additional data for three Antarctic CM meteorites were obtained from the literature. All CM meteorites analyzed in this study show a complex distribution of amino acids and a high variability in total concentration ranging from similar to15 300 to similar to5800 parts per billion (ppb), while the CIs show a total amino acid abundance of similar to4300 ppb. The relatively (compared to glycine) high AIB content found in all the CMs is a strong indicator that Strecker-cyanohydrin synthesis is the dominant pathway for the formation of amino acids found in these meteorites. The data from the Antarctic CM carbonaceous chondrites are inconsistent with the results from the other CMs, perhaps due to influences from the Antarctic ice that were effective during their residence time. In contrast to CMs, the data from the CI carbonaceous chondrites indicate that the Strecker synthesis was not active on their parent bodies.