UV protection for prebiotic molecules

Glenn R. Morton (grmorton@waymark.net)
Sun, 28 Jun 1998 21:08:41 -0500

The following was in the latest PNAS at

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/95/13/7260 :

Oceanic protection of prebiotic organic
compounds from UV radiation

H. James Cleaves and Stanley L. Miller*

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of
California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0506

Contributed by Stanley L. Miller, April 20, 1998

It is frequently stated that UV light would cause massive destruction of
prebiotic organic compounds because of the absence of an ozone layer. The
elevated UV flux of the early sun compounds this problem. This applies to
organic compounds of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial origin. Attempts
to deal with this problem generally involve atmospheric absorbers. We show
here that prebiotic organic polymers as well as several inorganic compounds
are sufficient to protect oceanic organic molecules from UV degradation.
This aqueous protection is in addition to any atmospheric UV absorbers and
should be a ubiquitous planetary phenomenon serving to increase the size of
planetary habitable zones.

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