Summary and implications of reported amino acid concentrations in the Murchison meteorite

Everett L. Shock, Mitchell D. Schulte

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41 Scopus citations


A study of literature reports of the concentrations of amino acids in extracts from the Murchison meteorite shows that many of the concentration ratios are constant. There are two possible interpretations of these ratios. One is that they are controlled by the pathways through which the amino acids formed, from which it follows that the amino acids are distributed in the same proportions throughout the meteorite. The other interpretation is that the ratios result from the analytical procedures used to extract the amino acids from the meteorite. These methods rely heavily on high-temperature (100°C) aqueous extraction and subsequent high-temperature acid hydrolysis. A correlation was observed in the present study between the relative concentrations of several amino acids in the meteorite extracts and their relative aqueous solubilities at 100°C (alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, norleucine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and glycine). The extract solutions are dilute, and far from the saturation limits, but these correlations suggest that the sampling procedure affects directly the reported concentrations for these amino acids. Ratios of the concentration of serine to those of glycine are also constant but cannot be accounted for solely by relative solubilities, and, as suggested elsewhere, serine as well as phenylalanine and methionine may be terrestrial contaminants. Data for β-alanine, α-aminobutyric acid, proline, sarcosine, alloisoleucine, β-aminoisobutyric acid, β-aminobutyric acid, and threonine also show constant abundances relative to glycine, but lack of solubility data at extraction conditions prohibits evaluating the extent of possible sampling bias for these amino acids. If the extraction process does not bias the results, and all extractable amino acids are removed from meteorite samples, then the properties of amino acids which control both their solubilities and their concentrations in the meteorite need to be established. The possibility of sampling bias needs to be tested experimentally before concluding that extraction is complete, and that the constant relative abundances indicate that the relative concentrations of amino acids are homogeneous in the meteorite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3159-3173
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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