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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.

Kminek, G, Bada JL.  2006.  The effect of ionizing radiation on the preservation of amino acids on Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 245:1-5.   10.1016/j.epsl.2006.03.008   AbstractWebsite

Amino acids are excellent biomarkers in the search for life on Mars because they are essential for biology as we know it and they are robust enough to survive for billions of years in the cold and dry Martian environment. However, amino acids and other organic compounds on Mars are exposed to the ionizing radiation from space and from the decay of radionuclides. This process and its role in the preservation of organic compounds has not been adequately addressed in the past. Based on measured radiolysis constants of amino acids and radiation dose estimates for Mars we show that the detection of an amino acid signature derived from an early Martian biosphere is not limited by its radiolytic decomposition as long as the amino acids are shielded adequately from space radiation. This indicates clearly the need to access the Martian subsurface in the search for molecular traces of an extinct Martian biosphere. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Glavin, DP, Dworkin JP, Aubrey A, Botta O, Doty JH, Martins Z, Bada JL.  2006.  Amino acid analyses of Antarctic CM2 meteorites using liquid chromatography-time of flight-mass spectrometry. Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 41:889-902. AbstractWebsite

Amino acid analyses of the Antarctic CM2 chondrites Allan Hills (ALH) 83100 and Lewis Cliff (LEW) 90500 using liquid chromatography-time of flight-mass spectrometry (LC-ToF-MS) Coupled with UV fluorescence detection revealed that these carbonaceous meteorites contain a suite of indigenous amino acids not present in Antarctic ice. Several amino acids were detected in ALH 83100, including glycine, alanine, beta-alanine, gamma-amino-n-butyric acid (gamma-ABA), and alpha-aminoisobutyric acid (AIB) with concentrations ranging from 250 to 340 parts per billion (ppb). In contrast to ALH 83 100, the CM2 meteorites LEW 90500 and Murchison had a much higher total abundance of these amino acids (440-3200 ppb). In addition, ALL! 83 100 was found to have lower abundances of the alpha-dialkyl amino acids AIB and isovaline than LEW 90500 and Murchison. There are three possible explanations for the depleted amino, acid content in ALH 83100: 1) amino acid leaching from ALH 83100 during exposure to Antarctic ice meltwater, 2) a higher degree of aqueous alteration on the ALH 83 100 parent body, or 3) ALH 83 100 originated on a chemically distinct parent body from the other two CM2 meteorites. The high relative abundance of epsilon-amino-n-caproic acid (EACA) in the ALH 83100 meteorite as well as the Antarctic ice indicates that Nylon-6 contamination from the Antarctic sample storage bags may have occurred during collection.

Bada, JL.  2001.  State-of-the-art instruments for detecting extraterrestrial life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 98:797-800.   10.1073/pnas.98.3.797   Website