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Experimental clues for detecting biosignatures on Mars

Abstract : Forthcoming exploration of Mars aims at identifying fossil biosignatures within ancient clay-rich formations. The subsurface of Mars has mostly acted as a giant freezer for the last 4 Gyr, thereby preserving potential remains of martian life. Yet, volcanism and impactors have periodically triggered the circulation of hydrothermal fluids, inevitably causing alteration of potentially fossilised biogenic organic materials. It thus appears crucial to quantify the impact of hydrothermal processes on organic biogeochemical signals in the presence of clay minerals. Here, we submitted RNA to hydrothermal conditions in the presence of Mg-smectites. Results show heterogeneous organo-mineral residues, with sub-micrometric phosphates, carbonates and amorphous silica particles together with Mg-smectites with interlayer spaces saturated by N-rich organic compounds. Although the chemical structure of RNA did not withstand hydrothermal conditions, clay minerals efficiently trapped organic carbon, confirming the relevance of drilling for organic carbon in ancient martian sediments. In addition, the degradation of RNA in the presence of Mg-smectites led to the precipitation of a quite uncommon mineral assemblage that could be seen as a biosignature per se. Martian targets exhibiting this mineral assemblage will thus constitute high priority and highly relevant candidates for sample return.
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https://hal.univ-lille.fr/hal-02415460
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Soumis le : mardi 4 février 2020 - 11:04:10
Dernière modification le : mardi 17 mars 2020 - 02:00:43

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J.-C. Viennet, S. Bernard, C. Le Guillou, P. Jacquemot, E. Balan, et al.. Experimental clues for detecting biosignatures on Mars. Geochemical Perspectives Letters, European Assoication of Geochemistry, 2020, 12, pp.28-33. ⟨10.7185/geochemlet.1931⟩. ⟨hal-02415460⟩

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