Hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, and ammonia are considered important intermediates in amino acid synthesis by electric discharge. In this study, however, amino acid precursors were synthesized from a CO–N2 mixture free of hydrogen atoms. An amorphous film composed of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen was given from a highly activated plasma. When exposed to atmospheric moisture, this film incorporated hydrogen atoms to yield amino acid. This is a mechanism for amino acid synthesis without involving hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, and ammonia. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.