CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Elucidating the Mechanism of Freeze-Thaw Driven Content Mixing Between Protocells

B. Peter 2023 ChemSystemsChem


Benedikt Peter and Petra Schwille



Modern cells rely on highly evolved protein networks to accomplish essential life functions, including the inheritance of information from parents to their offspring. In the absence of thes e sophisticated molecular machineries, alternatives were required for primitive protocells to proliferate and disseminate genetic material. Recurring environmental constraints on ancient earth, such as temperature cycles, are considered as prebiotically plausible driving forces capable of shuffling of protocellular contents, thereby boosting compositional complexity. Using confocal fluorescence microscopy, we show that temperature oscillations such as freezing-thawing (FT) cycles promote efficient content mixing between giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) as model protocells. W e shed light on the underlying exchange mechanism and demonstrate that transient periods of destabilized membranes enable the diffusion of cargo molecules across ves icle membranes . Furthermore, we determine ess ential parameters, such as membrane composition, and quantify their impact on the lateral transfer efficiency. Our work outlines a simple scenario revolving around inter-protocellular communication environmentally driven by periodic freezing and melting of water.