Research Press Release

Astronomy: Deoxyribose created under extra-terrestrial conditions

Nature Communications

December 19, 2018

2-deoxyribose (the sugar component of DNA) and several deoxysugar derivatives have been detected in residues produced from the ultraviolet irradiation of ice mixtures under standard astrophysical conditions in the laboratory. The study, reported in Nature Communications, identifies some of the deoxysugar derivatives in carbonaceous meteorite samples for the first time. However, the presence of larger sugars such as 2-deoxyribose, could not be confirmed in the meteoritic samples analysed.

Over the last 25 years, laboratory experiments simulating the photo-irradiation or particle bombardment of compounds similar to astrophysical ice have shown that organic molecules can form under non-biological conditions. The presence of sugar derivatives (including ribose) and other biological compounds (such as amino acids) in primitive meteorites suggest a significant fraction of compounds from which biological processes started on the primitive Earth may have been delivered via comets, meteorites, and interplanetary dust particles.

Michel Nuevo and colleagues detected the presence of 2-deoxyribose and other deoxysugar derivatives in residues produced by the ultraviolet irradiation of ice mixtures consisting of water and methanol under astrophysical conditions. In an analysis of meteorite samples, the authors found the presence of some of their deoxysugar derivatives. Larger sugars such as 2-deoxyribose could not be unambiguously confirmed. However, the authors suggest that larger (and different) meteorite samples may provide a more definitive answer as to their presence in extra-terrestrial environments.


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