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Deoxyribose and deoxysugar derivatives from photoprocessed astrophysical ice analogues and comparison to meteorites

Michel Nuevo, George Cooper & Scott A. Sandford

Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 5276 (2018)


Sugars and their derivatives are essential to all terrestrial life. Their presence in meteorites, together with amino acids, nucleobases, amphiphiles, and other compounds of biological importance, may have contributed to the inventory of organics that played a role in the emergence of life on Earth. Sugars, including ribose (the sugar of RNA), and other sugar derivatives have been identified in laboratory experiments simulating photoprocessing of ices under astrophysical conditions. In this work, we report the detection of 2-deoxyribose (the sugar of DNA) and several deoxysugar derivatives in residues produced from the ultraviolet irradiation of ice mixtures consisting of H2O and CH3OH. The detection of deoxysugar derivatives adds to the inventory of compounds of biological interest that can form under astrophysical conditions and puts constraints on their abiotic formation pathway. Finally, we report that some of the deoxysugar derivatives found in our residues are also newly identified in carbonaceous meteorites.


We thank R.L. Walker (NASA Ames, retired) for technical support and A.C. Rios (NASA Ames) for useful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the NASA Exobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute under Cooperative Agreement Notice NNH13ZDA017C issued through the Science Mission Directorate.

Author information


NASA Ames Research Center, MS 245-6, Moffett Field, CA, 94035, USA
Michel Nuevo
& Scott A. Sandford

BAER Institute, NASA Research Park, MS 18-4, Moffett Field, CA, 94035, USA
Michel Nuevo

NASA Ames Research Center, MS 239-4, Moffett Field, CA, 94035, USA
George Cooper

M.N. prepared the laboratory samples (residues) and performed GC-MS analyses with BSTFA derivatization. G.C. performed GC-MS analysis of the residues with (+)-butanol/TFAA and MTBSTFA derivatizations. M.N. and G.C. analyzed the data to identify the compounds in the residues. S.A.S. helped for the interpretation of the results and their astrobiological implications. M.N. wrote the paper with inputs from G.C. and S.A.S.
Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.
Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michel Nuevo.

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About this article

Publication history

Received 30 May 2018 Accepted 14 November 2018

Published 18 December 2018

DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-07693-x

Subjects Interstellar medium Laboratory astrophysics Mass spectrometry