Prebiotic Vitamin B₃ Synthesis in Carbonaceous Planetesimals

Vitamin B₃ in carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu (Hayabusa2 spacecraft - JAXA) - © CC BY 4.0


Aqueous chemistry within carbonaceous planetesimals is promising for synthesizing prebiotic organic matter essential to all life. Meteorites derived from these planetesimals delivered these life building blocks to the early Earth, potentially facilitating the origins of life. Here, we studied the formation of vitamin B₃ as it is an important precursor of the coenzyme NAD(P)(H), which is essential for the metabolism of all life as we know it. We propose a new reaction mechanism based on known experiments in the literature that explains the synthesis of vitamin B₃. It combines the sugar precursors glyceraldehyde or dihydroxyacetone with the amino acids aspartic acid or asparagine in aqueous solution without oxygen or other oxidizing agents. We performed thermochemical equilibrium calculations to test the thermodynamic favorability. The predicted vitamin B₃ abundances resulting from this new pathway were compared with measured values in asteroids and meteorites. We conclude that competition for reactants and decomposition by hydrolysis are necessary to explain the prebiotic content of meteorites. In sum, our model fits well into the complex network of chemical pathways active in this environment.

Klaus Paschek
Klaus Paschek
Ph.D. candidate - Astrophysics

My research interests include prebiotic synthesis, planetary science, and autocatalysis.