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Title: Radiolytically reworked Archean organic matter in a habitable deep ancient high-temperature brine

Investigations of abiotic and biotic contributions to dissolved organic carbon (DOC) are required to constrain microbial habitability in continental subsurface fluids. Here we investigate a large (101–283 mg C/L) DOC pool in an ancient (>1Ga), high temperature (45–55 °C), low biomass (102−104cells/mL), and deep (3.2 km) brine from an uranium-enriched South African gold mine. Excitation-emission matrices (EEMs), negative electrospray ionization (–ESI) 21 tesla Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS), and amino acid analyses suggest the brine DOC is primarily radiolytically oxidized kerogen-rich shales or reefs, methane and ethane, with trace amounts of C3–C6hydrocarbons and organic sulfides. δ2H and δ13C of C1–C3hydrocarbons are consistent with abiotic origins. These findings suggest water-rock processes control redox and C cycling, helping support a meagre, slow biosphere over geologic time. A radiolytic-driven, habitable brine may signal similar settings are good targets in the search for life beyond Earth.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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