Thermodynamics of strecker synthesis in hydrothermal systems
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Submarine hydrothermal systems on the early Earth may have been the sites from which life emerged. The potential for Strecker synthesis to produce biomolecules (amino and hydroxy acids) from starting compounds (ketones, aldehydes, HCN and ammonia) in such environments is evaluated quantitatively using thermodynamic data and parameters for the revised Helgeson-Kirkham-Flowers (HKF) equation of state. Although there is an overwhelming thermodynamic drive to form biomolecules by the Strecker synthesis at hydrothermal conditions, the availability and concentration of starting compounds limit the efficiency and productivity of Strecker reactions. Mechanisms for concentrating reactant compounds could help overcome this problem, but other mechanisms for production of biomolecules may have been required to produce the required compounds on the early Earth. Geochemical constraints imposed by hydrothermal systems provide important clues for determining the potential of these and other systems as sites for the emergence of life.
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