Navigation Links
Clay-armored bubbles may have formed first protocells
Date:2/6/2011

Cambridge, Mass. February 7, 2011 A team of applied physicists at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Princeton, and Brandeis have demonstrated the formation of semipermeable vesicles from inorganic clay.

The research, published online this week in the journal Soft Matter, shows that clay vesicles provide an ideal container for the compartmentalization of complex organic molecules.

The authors say the discovery opens the possibility that primitive cells might have formed inside inorganic clay microcompartments.

"A lot of work, dating back several decades, explores the role of air bubbles in concentrating molecules and nanoparticles to allow interesting chemistry to occur," says lead author Anand Bala Subramaniam, a doctoral candidate at SEAS.

"We have now provided a complete physical mechanism for the transition from a two-phase clayair bubble system, which precludes any aqueous-phase chemistry, to a single aqueous-phase clay vesicle system," Subramaniam says, "creating a semipermeable vesicle from materials that are readily available in the environment."

"Clay-armored bubbles" form naturally when platelike particles of montmorillonite collect on the outer surface of air bubbles under water.

When the clay bubbles come into contact with simple organic liquids like ethanol and methanol, which have a lower surface tension than water, the liquid wets the overlapping plates. As the inner surface of the clay shell becomes wet, the disturbed air bubble inside dissolves.

The resulting clay vesicle is a strong, spherical shell that creates a physical boundary between the water inside and the water outside. The translucent, cell-like vesicles are robust enough to protect their contents in a dynamic, aquatic environment such as the ocean.

Microscopic pores in the vesicle walls create a semipermeable membrane that allows chemical building blocks to enter the "cell," while preventing larger structures from leaving.

Scientists have studied montmorillonite, an abundant clay, for hundreds of years, and the mineral is known to serve as a chemical catalyst, encouraging lipids to form membranes and single nucleotides to join into strands of RNA.

Because liposomes and RNA would have been essential precursors to primordial life, Subramaniam and his coauthors suggest that the pores in the clay vesicles could do double duty as both selective entry points and catalytic sites.

"The conclusion here is that small fatty acid molecules go in and self-assemble into larger structures, and then they can't come out," says principal investigator Howard A. Stone, the Dixon Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton, and a former Harvard faculty member. "If there is a benefit to being protected in a clay vesicle, this is a natural way to favor and select for molecules that can self-organize."

Future research will explore the physical interactions between the platelike clay particles, and between the liquids and the clay. The researchers are also interested to see whether these clay vesicles can, indeed, be found in the natural environment today.

"Whether clay vesicles could have played a significant role in the origins of life is of course unknown," says Subramaniam, "but the fact that they are so robust, along with the well-known catalytic properties of clay, suggests that they may have had some part to play."


'/>"/>

Contact: Caroline Perry
cperry@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. University of Utah microbubbles clean dirty soil in China
2. Liposome-hydrogel hybrids: No toil, no trouble for stronger bubbles
3. Rice physicists kill cancer with nanobubbles
4. Bubble physicist counts bubbles in the ocean to answer questions about climate, sound, light
5. Breakthrough on cystic fibrosis 1 step closer as new research alliance formed
6. Early settlers rapidly transformed New Zealand forests with fire
7. Researchers discover how the storehouses of plant cells are formed
8. Sick of blurred identity, US plant pathologists formed own society
9. After mastodons and mammoths, a transformed landscape
10. Students least informed about environmental science are most optimistic
11. First new C. difficile drug in a generation superior to existing treatments: Researchers
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Clay-armored bubbles may have formed first protocells
(Date:5/16/2017)... , May 16, 2017   Bridge Patient ... organizations, and MD EMR Systems , an ... partner for GE, have established a partnership to ... product and the GE Centricity™ products, including Centricity ... These new integrations will allow ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... April 19, 2017 The global ... landscape is marked by the presence of several large ... held by five major players - 3M Cogent, NEC ... accounted for nearly 61% of the global military biometric ... in the global military biometrics market boast global presence, ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... 13, 2017 UBM,s Advanced Design and Manufacturing ... feature emerging and evolving technology through its 3D Printing ... run alongside the expo portion of the event and ... demonstrations focused on trending topics within 3D printing and ... manufacturing event will take place June 13-15, 2017 at the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/23/2017)... Canada (PRWEB) , ... May 23, 2017 , ... ... Firmex FileSend, a cloud-based file transfer solution that makes it easy for organizations ... without having to worry about cumbersome FTP software or email file size limitations. ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 22, 2017 , ... NetDimensions has been ranked ... Research Globe™ for Corporate Learning, 2017. , Aragon Research defines Leaders as organizations ... effectively perform against those strategies. NetDimensions’ ranking as a Leader due to its ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 23, 2017 , ... Kathy Goin is ... Clinical Operations. She brings years of expertise in establishing and leading clinical operations ... as a licensed occupational therapist, through a variety of leadership roles in Clinical ...
(Date:5/22/2017)... ... May 22, 2017 , ... Stratevi, a boutique firm that partners ... Coast. It has opened an office in downtown Boston at 745 Atlantic Ave. ... more important to generate evidence on the value they provide, not just to patients, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: