Abiotic formation of alkylsulfonic acids in interstellar analog ices and implications for their detection on RyuguOPEN ACCESS 

Mason McAnally, Jana Bocková, Ashanie Herath, Andrew M. Turner, Cornelia Meinert & Ralf I. Kaiser

Nature Communications, Volume 15, Article number: 4409, Published: 23 May 2024


“For the last century, the source of sulfur in Earth’s very first organisms has remained a fundamental, unsolved enigma. While sulfates and their organic derivatives with sulfur in the S(+VI) oxidation state represent core nutrients in contemporary biochemistry, the limited bioavailability of sulfates during Earth’s early Archean period proposed that more soluble S(+IV) compounds served as the initial source of sulfur for the first terrestrial microorganisms. Here, we reveal via laboratory simulation experiments that the three simplest alkylsulfonic acids—water soluble organic S(+IV) compounds—can be efficiently produced in interstellar, sulfur-doped ices through interaction with galactic cosmic rays. This discovery opens a previously elusive path into the synthesis of vital astrobiological significance and untangles fundamental mechanisms of a facile preparation of sulfur-containing, biorelevant organics in extraterrestrial ices; these molecules can be eventually incorporated into comets and asteroids before their delivery and detection on Earth such as in the Murchison, Tagish Lake, and Allende meteorites along with the carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu.”