Dynamic lipid aptamers: non-polymeric chemical path to early life
A widespread dogma asserts that life could not have emerged without biopolymers – RNA and proteins. However, the widely acknowledged implausibility of a spontaneous appearance and proliferation of these complex molecules in primordial messy chemistry casts doubt on this scenario. A proposed alternative is “Lipid-First”, based on the evidence that lipid assemblies may spontaneously emerge in heterogeneous environments, and are shown to undergo growth and fission, and to portray autocatalytic self-copying. What seems undecided is whether lipid assemblies have protein-like capacities for stereospecific interactions, a sine qua non of life processes. This Viewpoint aims to alleviate such doubts, pointing to growing experimental evidence that lipid aggregates possess dynamic surface configurations capable of stereospecific molecular recognition. Such findings help support a possible key role of lipids in seeding life's origin.