Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, Ricardo Amils, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, William M. Irvine, Daniele L. Pinti, Michel Viso

Endogenous Synthesis

  • André BrackEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-11274-4_513



Amino acids, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, hydrothermal systems, lipids, organic molecules, prebiotic chemistry, primitive atmosphere


Life, defined as an open chemical system capable of self-reproduction and evolution, is thought to have originated from reduced organic matter in water. Carbon was available as gaseous compounds in the primitive atmosphere, either oxidized as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide or reduced as methane. When subjected to energy sources (UV, heat, electric discharges, cosmic rays, shock waves) and mixed with water and ammonia or nitrogen, these gases generate hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde that lead to many of the building blocks of life, such as amino acids. Deep-sea hydrothermal systems may also represent an environment for the synthesis of prebiotic organic molecules.


It is generally believed that life on Earth arose in liquid water about 4 billion years ago. It is likely that...

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References and Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire CNRSOrléans cedex 2France