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A contamination assessment of the CI carbonaceous meteorite Orgueil using a DNA-directed approach

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Abstract

The Orgueil meteorite has become one of the most well-studied carbonaceous meteorites, after it fell in France 150 yr ago. Extraterrestrial organic compounds such as amino acids and nucleobases in the parts per billion ranges were identified in Orgueil samples with supporting isotopic analyses. However, speculations of terrestrial contamination such as organic inclusions in the form of microbes and seeds accompanied the analyses of the Orgueil meteorite ever since its fall. By using molecular analysis, we performed DNA extractions and spiking experiments combined with 16S and 18S rRNA gene targeted PCR amplification to quantify the level of terrestrial biocontamination. Our results indicate that terrestrial contamination with DNA was insignificant in the investigated meteorite fraction. We also remeasured and confirmed concentrations of amino acids found in previous studies and conclude that their rather high concentrations and distribution cannot be explained by terrestrial contamination with microorganisms alone. These results represent the first analysis using DNA-directed tools in the analysis of the Orgueil meteorite to determine trace levels of biomarkers.

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Aerts, J. W., Elsaesser, A., Röling, W. F. M., & Ehrenfreund, P. (2016). A contamination assessment of the CI carbonaceous meteorite Orgueil using a DNA-directed approach. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 51(5), 920–931. https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.12629

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