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Lazcano, A, Bada JL.  2003.  The 1953 Stanley L. Miller experiment: Fifty years of prebiotic organic chemistry. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 33:235-242.   10.1023/a:1024807125069   AbstractWebsite

The field of prebiotic chemistry effectively began with a publication in Science 50 years ago by Stanley L. Miller on the spark discharge synthesis of amino acids and other compounds using a mixture of reduced gases that were thought to represent the components of the atmosphere on the primitive Earth. On the anniversary of this landmark publication, we provide here an accounting of the events leading to the publication of the paper. We also discuss the historical aspects that lead up to the landmark Miller experiment.

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Lee, C, Bada JL.  1975.  Amino-Acids in Equatorial Pacific Ocean Water. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 26:61-68.   10.1016/0012-821x(75)90177-6   Website
Lee, C, Bada JL, Peterson E.  1976.  Amino-Acids in Modern and Fossil Woods. Nature. 259:183-186.   10.1038/259183a0   Website
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Low, PS, Bada JL.  1974.  Bile-Pigments in Blood Serum of Fish from Family Cottidae. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 47:411-418.   10.1016/0300-9629(74)90003-6   Website
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Pereto, J, Bada JL, Lazcano A.  2009.  Charles Darwin and the Origin of Life. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 39:395-406.   10.1007/s11084-009-9172-7   AbstractWebsite

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species 150 years ago he consciously avoided discussing the origin of life. However, analysis of some other texts written by Darwin, and of the correspondence he exchanged with friends and colleagues demonstrates that he took for granted the possibility of a natural emergence of the first life forms. As shown by notes from the pages he excised from his private notebooks, as early as 1837 Darwin was convinced that "the intimate relation of Life with laws of chemical combination, & the universality of latter render spontaneous generation not improbable". Like many of his contemporaries, Darwin rejected the idea that putrefaction of preexisting organic compounds could lead to the appearance of organisms. Although he favored the possibility that life could appear by natural processes from simple inorganic compounds, his reluctance to discuss the issue resulted from his recognition that at the time it was possible to undertake the experimental study of the emergence of life.

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Lumley, HD, Lumley MAD, Bada JL, Turekian KK.  1977.  Dating of Pre-Neanderthal Remains at Caune-de-Larago, Tautavel, Pyrenees-Orientales, France. Journal of Human Evolution. 6:223-224.Website
Bada, JL, Fegley B, Miller SL, Lazcano A, Cleaves HJ, Hazen RM, Chalmers J.  2007.  Debating evidence for the origin of life on Earth. Science. 315:937-938.Website
Lee, C, Bada JL.  1977.  Dissolved Amino-Acids in Equatorial Pacific, Sargasso Sea, and Biscayne Bay. Limnology and Oceanography. 22:502-510.Website
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Parker, ET, Cleaves HJ, Callahan MP, Dworkin JP, Glavin DP, Lazcano A, Bada JL.  2011.  Enhanced Synthesis of Alkyl Amino Acids in Miller's 1958 H2S Experiment. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 41:569-574.   10.1007/s11084-011-9253-2   AbstractWebsite

Stanley Miller's 1958 H2S-containing experiment, which included a simulated prebiotic atmosphere of methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), carbon dioxide (CO2), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) produced several alkyl amino acids, including the alpha-, beta-, and gamma-isomers of aminobutyric acid (ABA) in greater relative yields than had previously been reported from his spark discharge experiments. In the presence of H2S, aspartic and glutamic acids could yield alkyl amino acids via the formation of thioimide intermediates. Radical chemistry initiated by passing H2S through a spark discharge could have also enhanced alkyl amino acid synthesis by generating alkyl radicals that can help form the aldehyde and ketone precursors to these amino acids. We propose mechanisms that may have influenced the synthesis of certain amino acids in localized environments rich in H2S and lightning discharges, similar to conditions near volcanic systems on the early Earth, thus contributing to the prebiotic chemical inventory of the primordial Earth.

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Bada, JL, Maynard JB, Luyendyk BP.  1970.  Marine Sediments - Dating by Racemization of Amino Acids. Science. 170:730-&.   10.1126/science.170.3959.730   Website
Rivas, M, Becerra A, Pereto J, Bada JL, Lazcano A.  2011.  Metalloproteins and the Pyrite-based Origin of Life: A Critical Assessment. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 41:347-356.   10.1007/s11084-011-9238-1   AbstractWebsite

We critically examine the proposal by W chtersh user (Prokaryotes 1: 275-283, 2006a, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 361: 787-1808, 2006b) that putative transition metal binding sites in protein components of the translation machinery of hyper-thermophiles provide evidence of a direct relationship with the FeS clusters of pyrite and thus indicate an autotrophic origin of life in volcanic environments. Analysis of completely sequenced cellular genomes of Bacteria, Archaea and Eucarya does not support the suggestion by W chtersh user (Prokaryotes 1: 275-283, 2006a, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 361: 787-1808, 2006b) that aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and ribosomal proteins bear sequence signatures typical of strong covalent metal bonding whose absence in mesophilic species reveals a process of adaptation towards less extreme environments.

Johnson, AP, Cleaves HJ, Dworkin JP, Glavin DP, Lazcano A, Bada JL.  2008.  The Miller volcanic spark discharge experiment. Science. 322:404-404.   10.1126/science.1161527   Website
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Raggi, L, Bada JL, Lazcano A.  2016.  On the lack of evolutionary continuity between prebiotic peptides and extant enzymes. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. 18:20028-20032.   10.1039/c6cp00793g   AbstractWebsite

The significance of experiments that claim to simulate the properties of prebiotic small peptides and polypeptides as models of the polymers that may have preceded proteins is critically addressed. As discussed here, most of these experiments are based only on a small number of a larger set of amino acids that may have been present in the prebiotic environment, supported by both experimental simulations and the repertoire of organic compounds reported in carbonaceous chondrites. Model experiments with small peptides may offer some insights into the processes that contributed to generate the chemical environment leading to the emergence of informational oligomers, but not to the origin of proteins. The large body of circumstantial evidence indicating that catalytic RNA played a key role in the origin of protein synthesis during the early stages of cellular evolution implies that the emergence of the genetic code and of protein biosynthesis are no longer synonymous with the origin of life. Hence, reports on the abiotic synthesis of small catalytic peptides under potential prebiotic conditions do not provide information on the origin of triplet encoded protein biosynthesis, but in some cases may serve as models to understand the properties of the earliest proteins.

Bada, JL, Cronin JR, Ho MS, Kvenvolden KA, Lawless JG, Miller SL, Oro J, Steinberg S.  1983.  On the Reported Optical-Activity of Amino-Acids in the Murchison Meteorite. Nature. 301:494-496.   10.1038/301494a0   Website
Arrhenius, G, Bada JL, Joyce GF, Lazcano A, Miller S, Orgel LE.  1999.  Origin and ancestor: Separate environments. Science. 283:792-792.Website
Bada, JL, Lazcano A.  2002.  Origin of life - Some like it hot, but not the first biomolecules. Science. 296:1982-1983.   10.1126/science.1069487   Website
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Beaty, DW, Miller S, Zimmerman W, Bada J, Conrad P, Dupuis E, Huntsberger T, Ivlev R, Kim SS, Lee BG, Lindstrom D, Lorenzoni L, Mahaffy P, McNamara K, Papanastassiou D, Patrick S, Peters S, Rohatgi N, Simmonds JJ, Spray J, Swindle TD, Tamppari L, Treiman A, Wolfenbarger JK, Zent A.  2004.  Planning for a Mars in situ sample preparation and distribution (SPAD) system. Planetary and Space Science. 52:55-66.   10.1016/j.pss.2003.08.016   AbstractWebsite

For Mars in situ landed missions, it has become increasingly apparent that significant value may be provided by a shared system that we call a Sample Preparation and Distribution (SPAD) System. A study was conducted to identify the issues and feasibility of such a system for these missions that would provide common functions for: receiving a variety of sample types from multiple sample acquisition systems; conducting preliminary characterization of these samples with non-destructive science instruments and making decisions about what should happen to the samples; performing a variety of sample preparation functions- and, finally, directing the prepared samples to additional science instruments for further analysis. Scientific constraints on the functionality of the system were identified, such as triage, contamination management, and various sample preparation steps, e.g., comminution, splitting, rock surfacing, and sieving. Some simplifying strategies were recommended and an overall science flow was developed. Engineering functional requirements were also investigated and example architectures developed. Preliminary conclusions are that shared SPAD facility systems could indeed add value to future Mars in situ landed missions if they are designed to respond to the particular requirements and constraints of those missions, that such a system appears feasible for consideration, and that certain standards should be developed for key SPAD interfaces. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bada, JL, Lazcano A.  2003.  Prebiotic soup - Revisiting the Miller experiment. Science. 300:745-746.   10.1126/science.1085145   Website
Levy, M, Miller SL, Brinton K, Bada JL.  2000.  Prebiotic synthesis of adenine and amino acids under Europa-like conditions. Icarus. 145:609-613.   10.1006/icar.2000.6365   AbstractWebsite

In order to simulate prebiotic synthetic processes on Europa and other ice-covered planets and satellites, we have investigated the prebiotic synthesis of organic compounds from dilute solutions of NH(4)CN frozen for 25 years at -20 and -78 degrees C. In addition, the aqueous products of spark discharge reactions from a reducing atmosphere were frozen for 5 years at -20 degrees C. We find that both adenine and guanine, as well as a simple set of amino acids dominated by glycine, are produced in substantial yields under these conditions, These results indicate that some of the key components necessary for the origin of life may have been available on Europa throughout its history and suggest that the circumstellar zone where life might arise may be wider than previously thought. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Parker, ET, Cleaves HJ, Callahan MP, Dworkin JP, Glavin DP, Lazcano A, Bada JL.  2011.  Prebiotic Synthesis of Methionine and Other Sulfur-Containing Organic Compounds on the Primitive Earth: A Contemporary Reassessment Based on an Unpublished 1958 Stanley Miller Experiment. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 41:201-212.   10.1007/s11084-010-9228-8   AbstractWebsite

Original extracts from an unpublished 1958 experiment conducted by the late Stanley L. Miller were recently found and analyzed using modern state-of-the-art analytical methods. The extracts were produced by the action of an electric discharge on a mixture of methane (CH(4)), hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S), ammonia (NH(3)), and carbon dioxide (CO(2)). Racemic methionine was formed in significant yields, together with other sulfur-bearing organic compounds. The formation of methionine and other compounds from a model prebiotic atmosphere that contained H(2)S suggests that this type of synthesis is robust under reducing conditions, which may have existed either in the global primitive atmosphere or in localized volcanic environments on the early Earth. The presence of a wide array of sulfur-containing organic compounds produced by the decomposition of methionine and cysteine indicates that in addition to abiotic synthetic processes, degradation of organic compounds on the primordial Earth could have been important in diversifying the inventory of molecules of biochemical significance not readily formed from other abiotic reactions, or derived from extraterrestrial delivery.

Grutters, M, van Raaphorst W, Epping E, Helder W, de Leeuw JW, Glavin DP, Bada J.  2002.  Preservation of amino acids from in situ-produced bacterial cell wall peptidoglycans in northeastern Atlantic continental margin sediments. Limnology and Oceanography. 47:1521-1524. AbstractWebsite

In this study we present the results of total hydrolysable amino acids (THAA) and amino acid D/L-enantiomers in northeastern Atlantic continental margin sediments. There is increasing evidence that intrinsically labile amino acids are present in old marine sediments as part of a refractory network of peptide-like material. We used amino acid enantiomers to identify the contribution of amino acids from bacterial cell walls to THAA in organic matter ranging from relatively young to 18,000 yr old. The ratio of D/L-amino acids increased with depth in the sediment mixed layer. Application of a transport-racemization-degradation model excludes a significant production of D-amino acids by racemization and implies in situ bacterial production as the main source. Amino acids associated with a refractory pool of bacterial cell walls could account for approximately one third of the THAA deeper in the sediments. We propose that in situ bacterial production and the primary flux of labile organic matter from the water column result in a small but highly reactive pool of amino acids in the surface mixed sediment only, whereas amino acids associated with refractory cell walls persist in marine sediments.

Parker, ET, Cleaves HJ, Dworkin JP, Glavin DP, Callahan M, Aubrey A, Lazcano A, Bada JL.  2011.  Primordial synthesis of amines and amino acids in a 1958 Miller H2S-rich spark discharge experiment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 108:5526-5531.   10.1073/pnas.1019191108   AbstractWebsite

Archived samples from a previously unreported 1958 Stanley Miller electric discharge experiment containing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) were recently discovered and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography and time-of-flight mass spectrometry. We report here the detection and quantification of primary amine-containing compounds in the original sample residues, which were produced via spark discharge using a gaseous mixture of H2S, CH4, NH3, and CO2. A total of 23 amino acids and 4 amines, including 7 organosulfur compounds, were detected in these samples. The major amino acids with chiral centers are racemic within the accuracy of the measurements, indicating that they are not contaminants introduced during sample storage. This experiment marks the first synthesis of sulfur amino acids from spark discharge experiments designed to imitate primordial environments. The relative yield of some amino acids, in particular the isomers of aminobutyric acid, are the highest ever found in a spark discharge experiment. The simulated primordial conditions used by Miller may serve as a model for early volcanic plume chemistry and provide insight to the possible roles such plumes may have played in abiotic organic synthesis. Additionally, the overall abundances of the synthesized amino acids in the presence of H2S are very similar to the abundances found in some carbonaceous meteorites, suggesting that H2S may have played an important role in prebiotic reactions in early solar system environments.

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Cleaves, HJ, Chalmers JH, Lazcano A, Miller SL, Bada JL.  2008.  A reassessment of prebiotic organic synthesis in neutral planetary atmospheres. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. 38:105-115.   10.1007/s11084-007-9120-3   AbstractWebsite

The action of an electric discharge on reduced gas mixtures such as H(2)O, CH(4) and NH(3) (or N(2)) results in the production of several biologically important organic compounds including amino acids. However, it is now generally held that the early Earth's atmosphere was likely not reducing, but was dominated by N(2) and CO(2). The synthesis of organic compounds by the action of electric discharges on neutral gas mixtures has been shown to be much less efficient. We show here that contrary to previous reports, significant amounts of amino acids are produced from neutral gas mixtures. The low yields previously reported appear to be the outcome of oxidation of the organic compounds during hydrolytic workup by nitrite and nitrate produced in the reactions. The yield of amino acids is greatly increased when oxidation inhibitors, such as ferrous iron, are added prior to hydrolysis. Organic synthesis from neutral atmospheres may have depended on the oceanic availability of oxidation inhibitors as well as on the nature of the primitive atmosphere itself. The results reported here suggest that endogenous synthesis from neutral atmospheres may be more important than previously thought.