Stability of Proteinogenic Amino Acids in Martian Conditions
Dr. Laura Rowe
Arts and Sciences
The study of the stability of amino acids in extraterrestrial environments could provide clues as to how life on other planets could have evolved. There are 21 amino acids used to construct proteins by organisms on Earth, and these are called proteinogenic amino acids. However, there are many amino acids that are not used to construct proteins, and these are called non-proteinogenic amino acids. In this project, the stability of a select few of the proteinogenic amino acids was tested when exposed to simulated surface conditions on Mars. Synthetic martian regolith (soil) was used to mimic the surface of Mars. The simulated Mars regolith is 93% similar to genuine martian regolith. In order to further mimic actual Martian surface conditions, three different perchlorate salts were added to the regolith, since rover data on Mars has indicated that the surface soil of Mars has approximately a 0.5% perchlorate concentration. Perchlorates are highly oxidizing species that can break bonds in chemicals. The stability of three aromatic amino acids after exposure to this perchlorate spiked Mars regolith simulant and water was analyzed using a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry system (UPLC-MS). Future work will repeat this experiment with non-proteinogenic amino acids and results could provide clues as to whether or not life on other planets would evolve to use the same proteinogenic amino acids that are used on Earth.
Kovarik, Claire; Smith, Christopher; Davidson, Kelly; and Rowe, Laura, "Stability of Proteinogenic Amino Acids in Martian Conditions" (2019). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 823.