Chemistry and Life

Medicinal chemistry. Pharmacology. Toxicology. Environmental sciences.

Vitamins from meteorites

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This paper describes the analysis of chemicals in a collection of meteorites. The meteorites were all of a type called carbonaceous chondrites. They are an uncommon variety which are distinctive for their content of organic compounds, including amino acids and common heterocyclic compounds – some of the basic building blocks of life on Earth. In this study, the researchers found a variety of pyridine carboxylic acids in these meteorites. One of them is pyridine-3-carboxylic acid which is better known as niacin or vitamin B3.

In a nice bit of followup, the researchers posited a plausible mechanism for the production of pyridine carboxylic acids. Since pyridine and derivatives have been found in meteorites before (here, for example), they simply showed that proton-irradiation of pyridine in carbon dioxide rich ice, conditions that might have been encountered in the interstellar environment, produced niacin and other pyridine carboxylic acids.

This is all consistent with the body of research that indicates that many of the basic ingredients and building blocks for life may have come from extraterrestrial sources. As the researchers conclude, niacin “is a precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, a likely ancient molecule used in cellular metabolism in all of life, and its common occurrence in CM2 chondrites may indicate that meteorites may have been a source of molecules for the emergence of more complex coenzymes on the early Earth.”

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One thought on “Vitamins from meteorites

  1. It is nice to know that getting hit by a meteorite can supply up to 400% of the daily recommended dose of niacin

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