Alternative Chirality Amino Acid Utilization Research in Support of Mars Astrobiology Mission Development-Subaward

Affiliation(s)PIProject periodFunded by
DEES Sun, Henry 02/01/2010 - 01/31/2013 Arizona State University

Project Description

Laboratory experiments will test a new concept for Martian life detection. Chiral preference in organic consumption may distinguish between biological and chemical reactions. Offered D- and L-form of a chiral organic compound, living organisms should select only one for utilization, whereas abiotic redox processes are indiscriminate and would destroy both. Proposed experiments with archaea, fungi, and bacteria will define a list of amino acids that are suitable for a chiral experiment on Mars, because not all amino acid species appear to be stereo specific. Necessary analytical capability and a culture collection of extremophiles already exist from an ongoing Exobiology project. The Desert Research Institute commits $10K internal fund. This proposal complements existing themes of the ASU team. In particular, it ties to the search for life as we don't know it on Earth or the 'shadow biosphere'. Could it be that some of the microorganisms are unculturable on normal nutrient media because they prefer alternative chirality substrates?