Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • Didier Despois
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1884-5



Glycolaldehyde (IUPAC name hydroxyacetaldehyde) is the simplest molecule that is both an alcohol and an aldehyde. It shares with monosaccharides (“sugars”) a formula (H2CO)n so that it can be considered formally to be a polymer of formaldehyde H2CO and to be a carbohydrate. It is an intermediate in the formose reaction. Monosaccharides have n ≥ 3, so that glycolaldehyde is a “pre-sugar” rather than a sugar. Glycolaldehyde has been identified in the interstellar medium.


Hollis et al. (2000) identified glycolaldehyde for the first time in the interstellar medium, toward the Galactic center.

See Also


Bioorganic Chemistry Interstellar Medium Galactic Center Simple Molecule Formose Reaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References and Further Reading

  1. Hollis JM, Lovas FJ, Jewell PR (2000) Interstellar glycolaldehyde: the first sugar. Astrophys J 540:107–110CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Observatoire de BordeauxFloraicFrance