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A Hydrogen-Rich Early Earth Atmosphere

AddTime:2019-08-16

We report here results from experiments and thermodynamic calculations that demonstrate a rapid, temperature-enhanced synthesis of oligopeptides from the condensation of aqueous glycine. Experiments were conducted in custom-made hydrothermal reactors, and organic compounds were characterized with ultraviolet-visible procedures. A comparison of peptide yields at 260 C with those obtained at more moderate temperatures ( 160 C) gives evidence of a significant (13 kJ .

 mol(-1)) exergonic shift. In contrast to previous hydrothermal studies, we demonstrate that custom peptide synthesis is favored in hydrothermal fluids and that rates of peptide hydrolysis are controlled by the stability of the parent amino acid, with a critical dependence on reactor surface composition. From our study, we predict that rapid recycling of product peptides from cool into near-super-critical fluids in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems will enhance peptide chain elongation. It is anticipated that the abundant hydrothermal systems on early Earth could have provided a substantial source of biomolecules required for the origin of life.
We show that the escape of hydrogen from early Earth's atmosphere likely occurred at rates slower by two orders of magnitude than previously thought. The balance between slow hydrogen escape and volcanic outgassing could have maintained a hydrogen mixing ratio of more than 30%. The production of prebiotic organic compounds in such an atmosphere would have been more efficient than either exogenous delivery or synthesis in hydrothermal systems. The organic soup in the oceans and ponds on early Earth would have been a more favorable place for the origin of life than previously thought


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