Prebiotic Synthesis of Adenine and Amino Acids Under Europa-like Conditions

Matthew Levy, Stanley L. Miller, Karen Brinton, Jeffrey L. Bada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


In order to simulate prebiotic synthetic processes on Europa and other ice-covered planets and satellites, we have investigated the prebiotic synthesis of organic compounds from dilute solutions of NH4CN frozen for 25 years at -20 and -78°C. In addition, the aqueous products of spark discharge reactions from a reducing atmosphere were frozen for 5 years at -20°C. We find that both adenine and guanine, as well as a simple set of amino acids dominated by glycine, are produced in substantial yields under these conditions. These results indicate that some of the key components necessary for the origin of life may have been available on Europa throughout its history and suggest that the circumstellar zone where life might arise may be wider than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-613
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyanide polymerization
  • Europa
  • Prebiotic synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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