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The Astrophysical Formation of Asymmetric Molecules and the Emergence of a Chiral Bias

Institut de Chimie de Nice, Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, UMR 7272, 06108 Nice, France
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency–Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, 3-1-1 Yoshinodai, Chuo Sagamihara, Kanagawa 252-5210, Japan
ISA, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
This manuscript is dedicated to the 80th anniversary of Prof. Dr. Wolfram H.-P. Thiemann.
Received: 22 February 2019 / Revised: 11 March 2019 / Accepted: 11 March 2019 / Published: 16 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Origin of Chirality in Life (Chiral Symmetry Breaking))
PDF [1988 KB, uploaded 16 March 2019]


The biomolecular homochirality in living organisms has been investigated for decades, but its origin remains poorly understood. It has been shown that circular polarized light (CPL) and other energy sources are capable of inducing small enantiomeric excesses (ees) in some primary biomolecules, such as amino acids or sugars. Since the first findings of amino acids in carbonaceous meteorites, a scenario in which essential chiral biomolecules originate in space and are delivered by celestial bodies has arisen. Numerous studies have thus focused on their detection, identification, and enantiomeric excess calculations in extraterrestrial matrices. In this review we summarize the discoveries in amino acids, sugars, and organophosphorus compounds in meteorites, comets, and laboratory-simulated interstellar ices. Based on available analytical data, we also discuss their interactions with CPL in the ultraviolet (UV) and vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) regions, their abiotic chiral or achiral synthesis, and their enantiomeric distribution. Without doubt, further laboratory investigations and upcoming space missions are required to shed more light on our potential extraterrestrial molecular origins. View Full-Text
Keywords: amino acids; sugars; chirality; comets; meteorites; interstellar amino acids; sugars; chirality; comets; meteorites; interstellar

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Garcia, A.D.; Meinert, C.; Sugahara, H.; Jones, N.C.; Hoffmann, S.V.; Meierhenrich, U.J. The Astrophysical Formation of Asymmetric Molecules and the Emergence of a Chiral Bias. Life 2019, 9, 29.

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