The Stability of Unnatural Amino Acids within Mars Planetary Conditions
Arts and Sciences
Valparaiso University Chemistry Department
This research project was to test the stability of natural and unnatural amino acids following exposure to certain conditions found on Mars. Amino acids are the building block from which proteins are made in living organisms. The natural aromatic amino acids used first in this study were tyrosine (Tyr), tryptophan (Trp), and phenylalanine (Phe) because these amino acids contain C-C double bonds that can be detected with the UV detector on our instrument. Martian soil has a perchlorate concentration of approximately 0.5%, and this may cause water to hydrate in the soil. However, the toxicity from radiation and perchlorates on Mars presents a challenge to the viability of life as we know it, forming within those conditions. The objective of the study was to help answer if unnatural amino acids found on Earth are more stable than natural amino acids when exposed to the soil conditions found on Mars. Specifically, simulated Martian soil (termed Mars regolith simulant) was spiked with 0.5% sodium, magnesium, or calcium perchlorates salt and mixed with Tyr, Trp, or Phe amino acids dissolved in water. The amount that these amino acids degraded following these conditions was then quantified using an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry instrument (UHPLC-MS). In this study only natural amino acids were tested, but in the future aromatic unnatural amino acids will also be tested using the same conditions.
Smith, Christopher; Kovarik, Claire; and Davidson, Kelly, "The Stability of Unnatural Amino Acids within Mars Planetary Conditions" (2019). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 829.