Photoinduced catalytic synthesis of biologically important metabolites from formaldehyde and ammonia under plausible "prebiotic" conditions

Irina V. Delidovich, Oxana P. Taran, A. N. Simonov, L. G. Matvienko, Valentin N. Parmon

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11 Citations (Scopus)


The article analyzes new and previously reported data on several catalytic and photochemical processes yielding biologically important molecules. UV-irradiation of formaldehyde aqueous solution yields acetaldehyde, glyoxal, glycolaldehyde and glyceraldehyde, which can serve as precursors of more complex biochemically relevant compounds. Photolysis of aqueous solution of acetaldehyde and ammonium nitrate results in formation of alanine and pyruvic acid. Dehydration of glyceraldehyde catalyzed by zeolite HZSM-5-17 yields pyruvaldehyde. Monosaccharides are formed in the course of the phosphate-catalyzed aldol condensation reactions of glycolaldehyde, glyceraldehyde and formaldehyde. The possibility of the direct synthesis of tetroses, keto- and aldo-pentoses from pure formaldehyde due to the combination of the photochemical production of glycolahyde and phosphate-catalyzed carbohydrate chain growth is demonstrated. Erythrulose and 3-pentulose are the main products of such combined synthesis with selectivity up to 10%. Biologically relevant aldotetroses, aldo- and ketopentoses are more resistant to the photochemical destruction owing to the stabilization in hemiacetal cyclic forms. They are formed as products of isomerization of erythrulose and 3-pentulose. The conjugation of the concerned reactions results in a plausible route to the formation of sugars, amino and organic acids from formaldehyde and ammonia under presumed 'prebiotic' conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alumosilicate
  • Formaldehyde
  • Monosaccharides
  • Phosphate catalyst
  • Prebiotic synthesis
  • UV-irradiation

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