PMID: 1698Oct 1, 1975

High pH ammonia toxicity, and the search for life on the Jovian planets

Origins of Life
P H DealH M Mack


Jovian plants have enviroments apparently suitable for the evolution of life, but nevertheless, present severe challenges to organisms. One such challenge arises from the presence of ammonia. Ammonia is an efficient biocide, its effect being dependent on pH as well as on concentration. The effects of pH and ammonia concentration were studied separately, where possible, on a variety of organisms, including some isolated from natural enviornments of high pH and/or ammonia concentration. Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis are both extremely sensitive to ammonia. An aerobic organism (growth up to pH 11.4) from an alkaline spring is more resistant, but exhibits a toxic response to ammonia at a pH much lower than its maximum for growth. The greatest ammonia resistance has been found in an unidentified organism growing at near neutral pH. Even in this case, however, survival at ammonia concentrations reasonably expected on the Jovian planets is measured in hours. This is, nevertheless, two to three orders of magnitude longer than for E. coli. Our data support the tentative conclusion that contamination of the Jovian planets with terrestrial organisms that can grow is unlikely. However, the range of toxic response noted, coupled wi...Continue Reading


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Jun 2, 1967·Science·S M SiegelO Daly
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Oct 1, 1970·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·B Z Siegel, S M Siegel
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Jan 1, 1988·Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere : the Journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life·C W CulbertsonR S Oremland
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