The origin of life on Earth, and possibly on other planets such as Mars, would have required the presence of liquid water and a continuous supply of prebiotic organic compounds. The exogenous delivery of organic matter by asteroids, comets, and carbonaceous meteorites could have contributed to the early Earth s prebiotic inventory by seeding the planet with biologically important organic compounds. A wide variety of prebiotic organic compounds have previously been detected in the Murchison CM type carbonaceous chondrite including amino acids, purines and pyrimidines. These compounds dominate terrestrial biochemistry and are integral components of proteins, DNA and RNA. Several purines including adenine, guanine, hypoxanthine, and xanthine, as well as the pyrimidine uracil, have previously been detected in water or formic acid extracts of Murchison using ion-exclusion chromatography and ultraviolet spectroscopy. However, even after purification of these extracts, the accurate identification and quantification of nucleobases is difficult due to interfering UV absorbing compounds. In order to reduce these effects, we have developed an extraction technique using sublimation to isolate purines and pyrimidines from other non-volatile organic compounds in Murchison acid extracts.
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Lunar and Planetary Science XXXV: Astrobiology Stew: Pinch of Microbes, Smidgen of UV, Touch of Organics, and Dash of Meteorites; LPI-Contrib-1197