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Issue 4, 2011
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Prebiotically relevant mixed fatty acid vesicles support anionic solute encapsulation and photochemically catalyzed trans-membrane charge transport

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Abstract

The spontaneous assembly of amphiphile-based compartments in aqueous solution is widely viewed as a key step in models for the abiotic formation of primitive cell-like structures. Proposed organic components for such systems consist of mixed short chain fatty acids (FA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) species, the composition of which have been modeled after organic extracts of carbonaceous meteorites. Self-assembly of amphiphiles from these extracts into aqueous suspensions of bilayer structures was long ago demonstrated, although little has since been reported concerning the stability and potential functionality of these complex mixtures. This work explores the thermodynamic and kinetic stability of vesicles prepared from complex mixtures of short chain FA species (CH3COOHC9H19COOH) with membrane solubilized PAH species. Critical vesicle concentration measurements and ultrafiltration analyses of decanoic acid in the presence of other shorter chain FA species indicate the formation of mixed component vesicle phases composed mainly of C10–C8 FA components. An electrostatic barrier to trans-membrane diffusion of negative charges allows observation of stably encapsulated poly-anionic solutes inside these vesicles. As a model for primitive energy transduction, trans-membrane electron transfer between EDTA and encapsulated ferricyanide was demonstrated, driven catalytically via PAH photochemistry without substantial decomposition of the chromophores or vesicles. These results indicate a plausible role for compartmentalization and catalysis by short chain fatty acids and PAH species in prebiotic vesicle-encapsulated systems.

Graphical abstract: Prebiotically relevant mixed fatty acid vesicles support anionic solute encapsulation and photochemically catalyzed trans-membrane charge transport

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Publication details

The article was received on 17 Nov 2010, accepted on 15 Dec 2010 and first published on 21 Jan 2011


Article type: Edge Article
DOI: 10.1039/C0SC00575D
Citation: Chem. Sci., 2011,2, 661-671
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    Prebiotically relevant mixed fatty acid vesicles support anionic solute encapsulation and photochemically catalyzed trans-membrane charge transport

    J. L. Cape, P. Monnard and J. M. Boncella, Chem. Sci., 2011, 2, 661
    DOI: 10.1039/C0SC00575D

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