Special Issue "Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology"

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Astrobiology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Research Unit Analytical BioGeoChemistry, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environment Health, Germany
Interests: analytical chemistry; high-resolution analytics; complex bio(geo)systems; omics/metabolomics; meteoritics; astrochemistry; origin of life
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The European astrobiology roadmap (AstROMaP) has recently resumed a state-of-the-art research in the field of astrobiology worldwide, focusing mainly on topics such as (i) the origin and evolution of planetary systems, (ii) the origin of organic compounds in space, (iii) rock–water–carbon interactions and organic synthesis on Earth as steps to life, (iv) life and hability, and (v) biosignatures as elements facilitating life detection. Each topic is related at some point to the descriptions and understanding of complex interconected chemical processes. The modern technological breackthrough in analytical chemistry advancing the description of complex systems in the fields of life and earth sciences can thus have a direct impact in all five astrobiology topics.

The goal of this Special Issue is to focus on the technological advances that have enabled to further the systems approach and chemical understanding in the field of astrobiology. Papers describing works in all analytical sectors of separation sciences (chromatography, electrophoresis, etc), spectroscopy (over the whole spectral range for direct or remote chemical analysis, from optical to specific frequencies), and spectrometry (mass analysis, hyphenated techniques), as well as more comprehensive and integrative approaches, such as those obseved in the modern field of omics, will be welcomed in this Special Issue. We welcome astrobiology-relevant topics based on chemical observations from the large- to the nanoscale, nanofluidics or miniaturization of chemical analyses, organic analysis of specific targets with isotopic or enantiomeric specificity of complex mixtures with chemical resolution, observtion of biological systems (microbiomes of higher organisms) under space conditions and stresses. The chemistry of interrest will involve the whole astrochemiome, from small volatiles, which represent the first steps in the synthesis of biology-relevant macromolecules, to biomolecules.

Prof. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • analytical chemistry
  • novel technologies
  • astrochemistry
  • (astro)chemiomics
  • astrobiology
  • (astro)biomics
  • chemosynthesis
  • early steps of life
  • biosignatures
  • analysis of complex chemistry
  • omics

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Profiling Murchison Soluble Organic Matter for New Organic Compounds with APPI- and ESI-FT-ICR MS
Life 2019, 9(2), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/life9020048 - 06 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The investigation of the abundant organic matter in primitive meteorite such as carbonaceous chondrites is of major interest in the field of origin of life. In this study, the soluble organic fraction of the Murchison meteorite was analyzed by atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) [...] Read more.
The investigation of the abundant organic matter in primitive meteorite such as carbonaceous chondrites is of major interest in the field of origin of life. In this study, the soluble organic fraction of the Murchison meteorite was analyzed by atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS), in both detection modes. Such an approach ensured that we obtained an extensive description of the organic matter of the CM2 meteorite. Indeed, while in total close to 16,000 unique features were assigned, only 4% are common to all analyses, illustrating the complementarity of both the detection modes and the ionization sources. ESI FT-ICR MS analysis, in negative-ion mode, ensured to observe specifically CHOS and CHNOS species, whereas the positive-ion mode is more dedicated to the detection of CHNO and CHN species. Moreover, new organomagnesium components were observed in (+) ESI. Eventually, (+) APPI FT-ICR MS analysis was a preferred method for the detection of less polar or nonpolar species such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons but also heteroatom aromatic species composing the organic matter of Murchison. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology)
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Open AccessArticle
A Mineralogical Context for the Organic Matter in the Paris Meteorite Determined by A Multi-Technique Analysis
Life 2019, 9(2), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/life9020044 - 30 May 2019
Abstract
This study is a multi-technique investigation of the Paris carbonaceous chondrite directly applied on two selected 500 × 500 µm² areas of a millimetric fragment, without any chemical extraction. By mapping the partial hydration of the amorphous silicate phase dominating the meteorite sample [...] Read more.
This study is a multi-technique investigation of the Paris carbonaceous chondrite directly applied on two selected 500 × 500 µm² areas of a millimetric fragment, without any chemical extraction. By mapping the partial hydration of the amorphous silicate phase dominating the meteorite sample matrix, infrared spectroscopy gave an interesting glimpse into the way the fluid may have circulated into the sample and partially altered it. The TOF-SIMS in-situ analysis allowed the studying and mapping of the wide diversity of chemical moieties composing the meteorite organic content. The results of the combined techniques show that at the micron scale, the organic matter was always spatially associated with the fine-grained and partially-hydrated amorphous silicates and to the presence of iron in different chemical states. These systematic associations, illustrated in previous studies of other carbonaceous chondrites, were further supported by the identification by TOF-SIMS of cyanide and/or cyanate salts that could be direct remnants of precursor ices that accreted with dust during the parent body formation, and by the detection of different metal-containing large organic ions. Finally, the results obtained emphasized the importance of studying the specific interactions taking place between organic and mineral phases in the chondrite matrix, in order to investigate their role in the evolution story of primitive organic matter in meteorite parent bodies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology)
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Open AccessArticle
Data-Driven UPLC-Orbitrap MS Analysis in Astrochemistry
Life 2019, 9(2), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/life9020035 - 02 May 2019
Abstract
Meteorites have been found to be rich and highly diverse in organic compounds. Next to previous direct infusion high resolution mass spectrometry experiments (DI-HR-MS), we present here data-driven strategies to evaluate UPLC-Orbitrap MS analyses. This allows a comprehensive mining of structural isomers extending [...] Read more.
Meteorites have been found to be rich and highly diverse in organic compounds. Next to previous direct infusion high resolution mass spectrometry experiments (DI-HR-MS), we present here data-driven strategies to evaluate UPLC-Orbitrap MS analyses. This allows a comprehensive mining of structural isomers extending the level of information on the molecular diversity in astrochemical materials. As a proof-of-concept study, Murchison and Allende meteorites were analyzed. Both, global organic fingerprint and specific isomer analyses are discussed. Up to 31 different isomers per molecular composition are present in Murchison suggesting the presence of ≈440,000 different compounds detected therein. By means of this time-resolving high resolution mass spectrometric method, we go one step further toward the characterization of chemical structures within complex extraterrestrial mixtures, enabling a better understanding of organic chemical evolution, from interstellar ices toward small bodies in the Solar System. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
New Applications of High-Resolution Analytical Methods to Study Trace Organic Compounds in Extraterrestrial Materials
Life 2019, 9(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/life9030062 - 26 Jul 2019
Abstract
Organic compounds are present as complex mixtures in extraterrestrial materials including meteorites, which may have played important roles in the origin of life on the primitive Earth. However, the distribution and formation mechanisms of meteoritic organic compounds are not well understood, because conventional [...] Read more.
Organic compounds are present as complex mixtures in extraterrestrial materials including meteorites, which may have played important roles in the origin of life on the primitive Earth. However, the distribution and formation mechanisms of meteoritic organic compounds are not well understood, because conventional analytical methods have limited resolution and sensitivity to resolve their molecular complexity. In this study, advanced instrumental development and analyses are proposed in order to study the trace organic compounds of extraterrestrial materials: (1) a clean room environment to avoid organic contamination during analysis; (2) high-mass-resolution analysis (up to ~150,000 m/Δm) coupled with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) in order to determine the elemental composition using exact mass for inferring the chemical structure; (3) superior chromatographic separation using a two-dimensional system in order to determine the structural and optical isomers of amino acids; and (4) in situ organic compound analysis and molecular imaging of the sample surface. This approach revealed a higher complexity of organic compounds with a heterogeneous distribution in meteorites. These new methods can be applied to study the chemical evolution of meteoritic organic compounds as well as the molecular occurrence in very-low-mass extraterrestrial materials such as asteroid-returned samples. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology)
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Open AccessReview
Evolutionary Steps in the Analytics of Primordial Metabolic Evolution
Life 2019, 9(2), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/life9020050 - 18 Jun 2019
Abstract
Experimental studies of primordial metabolic evolution are based on multi-component reactions which typically result in highly complex product mixtures. The detection and structural assignment of these products crucially depends on sensitive and selective analytical procedures. Progress in the instrumentation of these methods steadily [...] Read more.
Experimental studies of primordial metabolic evolution are based on multi-component reactions which typically result in highly complex product mixtures. The detection and structural assignment of these products crucially depends on sensitive and selective analytical procedures. Progress in the instrumentation of these methods steadily lowered the detection limits to concentrations in the pico molar range. At the same time, conceptual improvements in chromatography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry dramatically increased the resolution power as well as throughput, now, allowing the simultaneous detection and structural determination of hundreds to thousands of compounds in complex mixtures. In retrospective, the development of these analytical methods occurred stepwise in a kind of evolutionary process that is reminiscent of steps occurring in the evolution of metabolism under chemoautotrophic conditions. This can be nicely exemplified in the analytical procedures used in our own studies that are based on Wächtershäuser’s theory for metabolic evolution under Fe/Ni-catalyzed volcanic aqueous conditions. At the onset of these studies, gas chromatography (GC) and GC-MS (mass spectrometry) was optimized to detect specific low molecular weight products (<200 Da) in a targeted approach, e.g., methyl thioacetate, amino acids, hydroxy acids, and closely related molecules. Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) was utilized for the detection of larger molecules including peptides exceeding a molecular weight of 200 Da. Although being less sensitive than GC-MS or LC-MS, NMR spectroscopy benefitted the structural determination of relevant products, such as intermediates involved in a putative primordial peptide cycle. In future, Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS) seems to develop as a complementary method to analyze the compositional space of the products and reaction clusters in a non-targeted approach at unprecedented sensitivity and mass resolution (700,000 for m/z 250). Stable isotope labeling was important to differentiate between reaction products and artifacts but also to reveal the mechanisms of product formation. In this review; we summarize some of the developmental steps and key improvements in analytical procedures mainly used in own studies of metabolic evolution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology)
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Open AccessReview
Methodologies for Analyzing Soluble Organic Compounds in Extraterrestrial Samples: Amino Acids, Amines, Monocarboxylic Acids, Aldehydes, and Ketones
Life 2019, 9(2), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/life9020047 - 06 Jun 2019
Abstract
Soluble organic compositions of extraterrestrial samples offer valuable insights into the prebiotic organic chemistry of the solar system. This review provides a summary of the techniques commonly used for analyzing amino acids, amines, monocarboxylic acids, aldehydes, and ketones in extraterrestrial samples. Here, we [...] Read more.
Soluble organic compositions of extraterrestrial samples offer valuable insights into the prebiotic organic chemistry of the solar system. This review provides a summary of the techniques commonly used for analyzing amino acids, amines, monocarboxylic acids, aldehydes, and ketones in extraterrestrial samples. Here, we discuss possible effects of various experimental factors (e.g., extraction protocols, derivatization methods, and chromatographic techniques) in order to highlight potential influences on the results obtained from different methodologies. This detailed summary and assessment of current techniques is intended to serve as a basic guide for selecting methodologies for soluble organic analyses and to emphasize some key considerations for future method development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Chemistry in Astrobiology)
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