National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Meteoritics & Planetary Science 1–13 (2014) doi: 10.1111/maps.12281


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


We determined the abundances and enantiomeric compositions of amino acids in Sutter’s Mill fragment #2 (designated SM2) recovered prior to heavy rains that fell April 25–26, 2012, and two other meteorite fragments, SM12 and SM51, that were recovered postrain. We also determined the abundance, enantiomeric, and isotopic compositions of amino acids in soil from the recovery site of fragment SM51. The three meteorite stones experienced terrestrial amino acid contamination, as evidenced by the low D/L ratios of several proteinogenic amino acids. The D/L ratios were higher in SM2 than in SM12 and SM51, consistent with rain introducing additional L-amino acid contaminants to SM12 and SM51. Higher percentages of glycine, b-alanine, and c-amino-n-butyric acid were observed in free form in SM2 and SM51 compared with the soil, suggesting that these free amino acids may be indigenous. Trace levels of D+L-β-aminoisobutyric acid (β -AIB) observed in all three meteorites are not easily explained as terrestrial contamination, as β-AIB is rare on Earth and was not detected in the soil. Bulk carbon and nitrogen and isotopic ratios of the SM samples and the soil also indicate terrestrial contamination, as does compound-specific isotopic analysis of the amino acids in the soil. The amino acid abundances in SM2, the most pristine SM meteorite analyzed here, are approximately 20-fold lower than in the Murchison CM2 carbonaceous chondrite. This may be due to thermal metamorphism in the Sutter’s Mill parent body at temperatures greater than observed for other aqueously altered CM2 meteorites.