Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

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


  • Matthew Levy
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_395-4


Deamination describes the loss of an amine group from a molecule.


Deamination is likely to have played an important role in the availability of the biological building blocks of life. In the case of the nucleobases, the components of RNA and DNA, the dominant decomposition products of their exocyclic amine-bearing bases adenine, guanine, and cytosine are the deaminated products hypoxanthine, xanthine, and uracil, respectively. A calculation of the half-lives for the rates of decomposition of these bases shows that these compounds are not stable on a geologic timescale at temperatures much above 0 °C. This has led to the suggestion that life would be more likely to evolve under cold conditions, where biologically important material can accumulate, rather than at elevated temperatures such as hydrothermal vents, where they would be rapidly destroyed (Levy and Miller 1998).

Deamination is important for other biomolecules such as amino acids. In particular, the...


Ammonia Degradation Hydrolysis 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Bada JL, Miller SL (1968) Ammonium ion concentration in the primitive ocean. Science 159(813):423–425ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Frederico LA, Kunkel TA, Shaw BR (1990) A sensitive genetic assay for the detection of cytosine deamination: determination of rate constants and the activation energy. Biochemistry 29(10):2532–2537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Levy M, Miller SL (1998) The stability of the RNA bases: implications for the origin of life. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 95(14):7933–7938ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Lindahl T, Nyberg B (1974) Heat-induced deamination of cytosine residues in deoxyribonucleic acid. Biochemistry 13(16):3405–3410CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Michael F. Price CenterAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA