The situation and location of the origin of life is a matter of contention and a great deal of speculation. Here, Bénédicte Ménez and colleagues present evidence that aromatic amino acids (specifically tryptophan) can form abiotically and in a natural situation—outside a laboratory. They were formed and subsequently preserved at depth beneath the Atlantis Massif of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Demonstrating the potential of fluid-rock interactions in the oceanic lithosphere to generate primordial amino acids lends support to the idea that life might have originated in deep hydrothermal vents.
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