Proposed mechanism for protocell formation on early earth

Primitive protocells, formed from surface-associated lipid material, is proposed to be an early progenitor to the biological cell. In paper Rapid Growth and Fusion of Protocells in Surface-Adhered Membrane Networks recently published in Small, Prof. İrep Gözen and coworkers at University of Oslo investigate how elevated temperatures affect protocell formation from solid surface associated lipid networks. In their paper, the researchers show that temperatures in the range of 40-90°C significantly accelerate the nucleation, formation and growth of protocells, compared to the rate at 20°C

In order to study how material encapsulated inside the lipid compartments is distributed when the vesicles fuse to form larger protocells, the researchers use BioPen to locally incorporate RNA into individual vesicles attached to the surface. Protocell formation is then promoted through locally heating the lipid material using an IR laser. The results show that the RNA is evenly distributed throughout the newly formed protocell, which shows that the previously separated lipid vesicles have now fused into one continuous compartment.

In their work, Prof. Gözen and coworkers have added valuable pieces to the intricate puzzle that is the question of the origin of life. The temperatures studied in the paper resemble those on the early Earth. Showing that these conditions favor protocell formation and content redistribution constitutes important new knowledge. We congratulate the researchers at University of Oslo on their intriguing new paper and are grateful that they have chosen to use BioPen in their research.

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