Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 105–111 | Cite as

The Sugar Model: Autocatalytic Activity of the Triose–Ammonia Reaction

  • Arthur L. Weber


Reaction of triose sugars with ammonia under anaerobic conditions yielded autocatalytic products. The autocatalytic behavior of the products was examined by measuring the effect of the crude triose–ammonia reaction product on the kinetics of a second identical triose–ammonia reaction. The reaction product showed autocatalytic activity by increasing both the rate of disappearance of triose and the rate of formation of pyruvaldehyde, the product of triose dehydration. This synthetic process is considered a reasonable model of origin-of-life chemistry because it uses plausible prebiotic substrates, and resembles modern biosynthesis by employing the energized carbon groups of sugars to drive the synthesis of autocatalytic molecules.


sugar chemistry triose sugar–ammonia reaction catalysis autocatalysis Maillard reaction prebiotic chemistry origin of life 



I thank Esther Varon for technical assistance in these studies. This investigation was supported by a grant (NNA05CP68A) from the Exobiology Program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SETI InstituteNASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA

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