Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 427–452 | Cite as

The Influence of Mineral Matrices on the Thermal Behavior of Glycine

  • Punam Dalai
  • Hannes Lukas Pleyer
  • Henry Strasdeit
  • Stefan Fox
Prebiotic Chemistry


On the Hadean–Early Archean Earth, the first islands must have provided hot and dry environments for abiotically formed organic molecules. The heat sources, mainly volcanism and meteorite impacts, were also available on Mars during the Noachian period. In recent work simulating this scenario, we have shown that neat glycine forms a black, sparingly water-soluble polymer (“thermomelanoid”) when dry-heated at 200 °C under pure nitrogen. The present study explores whether relevant minerals and mineral mixtures can change this thermal behavior. Most experiments were conducted at 200 or 250 °C for 2 or 7 days. The mineral matrices used were phyllosilicates (Ca-montmorillonites SAz-1 and STx-1, Na-montmorillonite SAz-1-Na, nontronite NAu-1, kaolinite KGa-1), salts (NaCl, NaCl-KCl, CaCl2, artificial sea salt, gypsum, magnesite), picritic basalt, and three Martian regolith simulants (P-MRS, S-MRS, JSC Mars-1A). The main analytical method employed was high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Glycine intercalated in SAz-1 and SAz-1-Na was well protected against thermomelanoid formation and sublimation at 200 °C: after 2 days, 95 and 79 %, respectively, had either survived unaltered or been transformed into the cyclic dipeptide (DKP) and linear peptides up to Gly6. The glycine survival rate followed the order SAz-1 > SAz-1-Na > STx-1 ≈ NAu-1 > KGa-1. Very good protection was also provided by artificial sea salt (84 % unaltered glycine after 200 °C for 7 days). P-MRS promoted the condensation up to Gly6, consistent with its high phyllosilicate content. The remaining matrices were less effective in preserving glycine as such or as peptides.


Clay minerals Dry heating Early Earth and Mars Evaporites Glycine homopeptides Martian regolith simulants 



We thank Claudia Görgen, Sonja Ringer, Melanie Wagner, and the late Petra Guni for technical assistance. The authors are grateful to Thomas Staudacher (Observatoire volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise) for providing the picritic basalt and to Dr. Manfred Martin (Regierungspräsidium Freiburg; Landesamt für Geologie, Rohstoffe und Bergbau) for its elemental analysis. We also thank Dr. Jean-Pierre Paul de Vera (DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin) for providing samples of P-MRS and S-MRS. HLP is supported by an LGFG doctoral fellowship from the State of Baden-Württemberg.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Punam Dalai
    • 1
  • Hannes Lukas Pleyer
    • 1
  • Henry Strasdeit
    • 1
  • Stefan Fox
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Bioinorganic Chemistry, Institute of ChemistryUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany

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