Fatty Acid/Phospholipid Blended Membranes: A Potential Intermediate State in Protocellular Evolution

Lin Jin, Neha P. Kamat, Siddhartha Jena, Jack W. Szostak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Prior to the evolution of membrane proteins, intrinsic membrane stability and permeability to polar solutes are essential features of a primitive cell membrane. These features are difficult to achieve simultaneously in model protocells made of either pure fatty acid or phospholipid membranes, raising the intriguing question of how the transition from fatty acid to phospholipid membranes might have occurred while continuously supporting encapsulated reactions required for genomic replication. Here, the properties of a blended membrane system composed of both oleic acid (OA), a monoacyl fatty acid, and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC), a diacyl phospholipid are described. This hybrid vesicle system exhibits high stability to divalent cations (Mg2+), while simultaneously maintaining its permeability to small charged molecules such as nucleotides and divalent ions such as Mg2+. This combination of features facilitates key reactions expected to occur during a transition from primitive to modern cells, including nonenzymatic RNA replication, and is also compatible with highly evolved functions such as the ribosomal translation of a protein. The observations support the hypothesis that the early transition from fatty acid to phospholipid membranes could be accomplished through intermediate states in which membranes are composed of amphiphile mixtures, and do not require protein transporters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1704077
JournalSmall
Volume14
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 12 2018

Keywords

  • RNA
  • artificial cells
  • fatty acids
  • membranes
  • origin of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)

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