Role of Ferrocyanides in the Prebiotic Synthesis of α-Amino Acids

M. Ruiz-Bermejo* (Corresponding Author), S. Osuna-Esteban, M.-P. Zorzano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the synthesis of α-amino acids under possible prebiotic terrestrial conditions in the presence of dissolved iron (II) in a simulated prebiotic ocean. An aerosolliquid cycle with a prebiotic atmosphere is shown to produce amino acids via Strecker synthesis with relatively high yields. However, in the presence of iron, the HCN was captured in the form of a ferrocyanide, partially inhibiting the formation of amino acids. We showed how HCN captured as Prussian Blue (or another complex compound) may, in turn, have served as the HCN source when exposed to UV radiation, allowing for the sustained production of amino acids in conjunction with the production of oxyhydroxides that precipitate as by-products. We conclude that ferrocyanides and related compounds may have played a significant role as intermediate products in the prebiotic formation of amino acids and oxyhydroxides, such as those that are found in iron-containing soils and that the aerosol cycle of the primitive ocean
may have enhanced the yield of the amino acid production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages16
JournalOrigins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres
Early online date19 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

The authors used the research facilities of Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) and were supported by the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial “Esteban Terradas” (INTA) and the projects AYA2009-13920-C02-01 of the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain). We thank M. T. Fernández for recording the IR spectra and the DRX measurements. We also acknowledge the constructive revision and comments of Prof. A.W. Schwartz.


  • Prebiotic synthesis
  • Ferrocyanides
  • Amino acids
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Aerosol chemistry
  • Strecker reaction


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