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_1886-4



Methanethiol (its IUPAC official name) is a colorless gas under standard temperature and pressure, becoming liquid at 6 °C. It is the simplest thiol (thiols are analogs to alcohols, with an SH group replacing OH). Methanethiol has a strong rotten cabbage smell, so that some is added to natural gas to ease leak detection. It is produced by decaying organic matter in marshes and by decomposition of an algal metabolite (DMSP, dimethyl sulfonio proprionate). It is the main sulfur source of some marine bacteria and a possible substrate for methanogenesis. In prebiotic chemistry, its presence allows for the synthesis of the S-bearing amino acid methionine in Urey-Miller experiments (Miller 1974). Methanethiol has been found in interstellar space.


Methanethiol was detected in the interstellar medium toward the Galactic Center by Linke et al. (1979) (but not in comets up to now).

See Also


Bioorganic Chemistry Marine Bacterium Interstellar Medium Standard Temperature Sulfur Source 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Linke RA, Frerking MA, Thaddeus P (1979) Interstellar methyl mercaptan. Astrophys J Lett 234:L139–L142ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Miller S (1974) The atmosphere of the primitive Earth and the prebiotic synthesis of amino acids. Orig Life Evol Biosph 5:139–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Observatoire de BordeauxFloiracFrance