Racemization of Valine by Impact-Induced Heating

Yoshihiro Furukawa, Atsushi Takase, Toshimori Sekine, Takeshi Kakegawa, Takamichi Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Homochirality plays an important role in all living organisms but its origin remains unclear. It also remains unclear whether such chiral molecules survived terrestrial heavy impact events. Impacts of extraterrestrial objects on early oceans were frequent and could have affected the chirality of oceanic amino acids when such amino acids accumulated during impacts. This study investigated the effects of shock-induced heating on enantiomeric change of valine with minerals such as olivine ([Mg0.9, Fe0.1]2SiO4), hematite (Fe2O3), and calcite (CaCO3). With a shock wave generated by an impact at ~0.8 km/s, both d- and l-enriched valine were significantly decomposed and partially racemized under all experimental conditions. Different minerals had different shock impedances; therefore, they provided different P-T conditions for identical impacts. Furthermore, the high pH of calcite promoted the racemization of valine. The results indicate that in natural hypervelocity impacts, amino acids in shocked oceanic water would have decomposed completely, since impact velocity and the duration of shock compression and heating are typically greater in hypervelocity impact events than those in experiments. Even with the shock wave by the impact of small and decelerated projectiles in which amino acids survive, the shock heating may generate sufficient heat for significant racemization in shocked oceanic water. However, the duration of shock induced heating by small projectiles is limited and the population of such decelerated projectiles would be limited. Therefore, even though impacts of asteroids and meteorites were frequent on the prebiotic Earth, impact events would not have significantly changed the ee of proteinogenic amino acids accumulated in the entire ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-139
Number of pages9
JournalOrigins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 1


  • Amino acid
  • Enantiomer excess
  • Homochirality
  • Impact
  • Shock wave


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