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Soluble ferric iron as an effective protective agent against UV radiation: Implications for early life

AuthorsGómez-Gómez, Felipe CSIC ORCID; Aguilera, Ángeles CSIC ORCID; Amils, Ricardo CSIC ORCID
Mars surface
Issue Date29-Apr-2007
CitationIcarus 191(1): 352-359 (2007)
AbstractSome recent MER Rover Opportunity results on ancient sedimentary rocks from Mars describe sandstones originated from the chemical weathering of olivine basalts by acidic waters [Squyres, S.W., Knoll, A.H., 2005. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 240, 1–10]. The absence of protective components in early Mars atmosphere forced any possible primordial life forms to deal with high doses of UV radiation. A similar situation occurred on the primitive Earth during the development of early life in the Archean [Berkner, L.V., Marshall, L.C., 1965. J. Atmos. Sci. 22 (3), 225–261; Kasting, J.F., 1993. Science 259, 920–926]. It is known that some cellular and/or external components can shield organisms from damaging UV radiation or quench its toxic effects [Olson, J.M., Pierson, B.K., 1986. Photosynth. Res. 9, 251–259; García-Pichel, F., 1998. Origins Life Evol. B 28, 321–347; Cockell, C., Rettberg, P., Horneck, G., Scherer, K., Stokes, M.D., 2003. Polar Biol. 26, 62–69]. The effectiveness of iron minerals for UV protection has also been reported [Phoenix, V.R., Konhauser, K.O., Adams, D.G., Bottrell, S.H., 2001. Geology 29 (9), 823–826], but nothing is known about the effect of iron in solution. Here we demonstrate the protective effect of soluble ferric iron against UV radiation on acidophilic photosynthetic microorganisms. These results offer an interesting alternative means of protection for life on the surface of early Mars and Earth, especially in light of the geochemical conditions in which the sedimentary minerals, jarosite and goethite, recently reported by the MER missions, were formed [Squyres, S.W., Arvidson, R.E., Bell III, J.F., Brückner, J., Cabrol, N.A., Calvin, W., Carr, M.H., Christensen, P.R., Clark, B.C., Crumpler, L., Des Marais, D.J., d'Uston, C., Economou, T., Farmer, J., Farrand, W., Folkner, W., Golombek, M., Gorevan, S., Grant, J.A., Greeley, R., Grotzinger, J., Haskin, L., Herkenhoff, K.E., Hviid, S., Johnson, J., Klingelhöfer, G., Knoll, A.H., Landis, G., Lemmon, M., Li, R., Madsen, M.B., Malin, M.C., McLennan, S.M., McSween, H.Y., Ming, D.W., Moersch, J., Morris, R.V., Parker, T., Rice Jr., J.W., Richter, L., Rieder, R., Sims, M., Smith, M., Smith, P., Soderblom, L.A., Sullivan, R., Wänke, H., Wdowiak, T., Wolff, M., Yen, A., 2004. Science 306, 1698–1703; Klingelhöfer, G., Morris, R.V., Bernhardt, B., Schröder, C., Rodionov, D.S., de Souza Jr., P.A., Yen, A., Gellert, R., Evlanov, E.N., Zubkov, B., Foh, J., Bonnes, U., Kankeleit, E., Gütlich, P., Ming, D.W., Renz, F., Wdowiak, T., Squyres, S.W., Arvidson, R.E., 2004. Science 306, 1740–1745].
Description8 pages, 6 figures.-- ISI Article Identifier: 000250766400026.-- Printed version published Nov 1, 2007.
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