From the Dawn of Organic Chemistry to Astrobiology: Urea as a Foundational Component in the Origin of Nucleobases and Nucleotides

  • César Menor-SalvánEmail author
Part of the Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology book series (NUCLEIC, volume 35)


Urea is formed in significant quantities in classic prebiotic model reactions and simply by hydrolysis of cyanide. It is a very interesting molecule, with chemical properties that make it a potential precursor of nucleobases and related molecules, as well as a promoter of phosphorylation. In addition, urea’s physico-chemical properties allow it to form a range of viscous eutectic solutions by simple evaporation or freezing. Thus, urea is the basis of a potential prebiotic environment that forms “little ponds.” This chapter provides a historical perspective on the prebiotic chemistry of urea, from Wohler’s synthesis in the early nineteenth century to the most recent works.



This chapter was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Astrobiology Program, under the NSF Center for Chemical Evolution at Georgia Institute of Technology (CHE-1004570, CHE-1504217). I wish to acknowledge the fruitful discussions with Nicholas V. Hud and his constant and unconditional support. This chapter and the whole book has been possible thanks to my friends, colleagues, and staff at Georgia Tech, to whom I will be always indebted for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NSF-NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, School of Chemistry and BiochemistryGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Systems BiologyUniversidad de AlcalaMadridSpain

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