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Journal of Chromatography A 1217, 5 (2010) 731-740
Search for evidence of life in space: Analysis of enantiomeric organic molecules by N,N-dimethylformamide dimethylacetal derivative dependant Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry
C. Freissinet 1, 2, A. Buch 1, R. Sternberg 2, Cyril Szopa 3, 4, C. Geffroy-Rodier 5, C. Jelinek 6, M. Stambouli 1

Within the context of the future space missions to Mars (MSL 2011 and Exomars 2016), which aim at searching for traces of life at the surface, the detection and quantitation of enantiomeric organic molecules is of major importance. In this work, we have developed and optimized a method to derivatize and analyze chiral organic molecules suitable for space experiments, using N,N-dimethylformamide dimethylacetal (DMF-DMA) as the derivatization agent. The temperature, duration of the derivatization reaction, and chromatographic separation parameters have been optimized to meet instrument design constraints imposed upon space experiment devices. This work demonstrates that, in addition to its intrinsic qualities, such as production of light-weight derivatives and a great resistance to drastic operating conditions, DMF-DMA facilitates simple and fast derivatization of organic compounds (three minutes at 140 °C in a single-step) that is suitable for an in situ analysis in space. By using DMF-DMA as the derivatization agent, we have successfully identified 19 of the 20 proteinic amino acids and been able to enantiomerically separate ten of the potential 19 (glycine being non-chiral). Additionally, we have minimized the percentage of racemized amino acid compounds produced by optimizing the conditions of the derivatization reaction itself. Quantitative linearity studies and the determination of the limit of detection show that the proposed method is also suitable for the quantitative determination of both enantiomeric forms of most of the tested amino acids, as limits of detection obtained are lower than the ppb level of organic molecules already detected in Martian meteorites.
1 :  Laboratoire de Génie des Procédés et Matériaux - EA 4038 (LGPM)
Ecole Centrale Paris
2 :  Laboratoire inter-universitaire des systèmes atmosphèriques (LISA)
CNRS : UMR7583 – INSU – Université Paris VII - Paris Diderot – Université Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne (UPEC)
3 :  Institut Pierre-Simon-Laplace (IPSL)
CNRS : FR636 – Institut de recherche pour le développement [IRD] – CEA – CNES – INSU – Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) - Paris VI – Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) – École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris
4 :  Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS)
CNRS : UMR8190 – Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) - Paris VI – Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) – INSU
5 :  Synthèse et réactivité des substances naturelles (SRSN)
CNRS : UMR6514 – Université de Poitiers
6 :  Mid-Atlantic Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (MAMS Lab)
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Planète et Univers/Astrophysique/Planétologie et astrophysique de la terre

Physique/Astrophysique/Planétologie et astrophysique de la terre

Chimie/Chimie organique
Chirality – Derivatization – DMF-DMA – GC–MS – Amino acid – Organic matter – Mars – Space exploration – Exomars