Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Clay-armored bubbles may have formed first protocells

This false-color confocal image shows fatty-acid liposomes compartmentalized in a clay vesicle. The clay vesicles are approximately 100 microns in diameter, and the pores in the clay tend to range in size from about 50 to 100 nanometers (nm), with a very small percentage of vesicles able to exclude molecules as small as 17 nm. Fatty acid molecules, thought to be the components of primitive organic cell membranes, have been shown to travel through the pores into the vesicle and automatically assemble into micron-sized liposomes. Photo courtesy of Anand Bala Subramaniam.
This false-color confocal image shows fatty-acid liposomes compartmentalized in a clay vesicle. The clay vesicles are approximately 100 microns in diameter, and the pores in the clay tend to range in size from about 50 to 100 nanometers (nm), with a very small percentage of vesicles able to exclude molecules as small as 17 nm. Fatty acid molecules, thought to be the components of primitive organic cell membranes, have been shown to travel through the pores into the vesicle and automatically assemble into micron-sized liposomes. Photo courtesy of Anand Bala Subramaniam.

Abstract:
Discovery of inorganic, semipermeable clay vesicles indicates minerals could have played a key role in the origins of life.

Clay-armored bubbles may have formed first protocells

Cambridge, MA | Posted on February 8th, 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 clay-air 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 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."

Subramaniam and Stone's coauthors include Jiandi Wan, of Princeton University, and Arvind Gopinath, of Brandeis University.

The research was funded by the Harvard Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and supported by the Harvard Center for Brain Science Imaging Facility.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Caroline Perry
617-496-3815

Copyright © Harvard University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

'Lasers rewired': Scientists find a new way to make nanowire lasers: Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley scientists adapt next-gen solar cell materials for a different purpose February 12th, 2016

Breaking cell barriers with retractable protein nanoneedles: Adapting a bacterial structure, Wyss Institute researchers develop protein actuators that can mechanically puncture cells February 12th, 2016

Replacement of Toxic Antibacterial Agents Possible by Biocompatible Polymeric Nanocomposites February 12th, 2016

Properties of Polymeric Nanofibers Optimized to Treat Damaged Body Tissues February 12th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Graphene leans on glass to advance electronics: Scientists' use of common glass to optimize graphene's electronic properties could improve technologies from flat screens to solar cells February 12th, 2016

A metal that behaves like water: Researchers describe new behaviors of graphene February 12th, 2016

'Lasers rewired': Scientists find a new way to make nanowire lasers: Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley scientists adapt next-gen solar cell materials for a different purpose February 12th, 2016

Silicon chip with integrated laser: Light from a nanowire: Nanolaser for information technology February 12th, 2016

Academic/Education

SUNY Poly and GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announce New $500M R&D Program in Albany To Accelerate Next Generation Chip Technology: Arrival of Second Cutting Edge EUV Lithography Tool Launches New Patterning Center That Will Generate Over 100 New High Tech Jobs at SUNY Poly February 9th, 2016

COD Grad Begins Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University: Marsela Jorgolli's Passion for Physics Has Led to a Decade of Academic Research That Continues at Harvard University as a Postdoctoral Fellow February 2nd, 2016

Heriot-Watt's Institute of Photonics & Quantum Sciences uses the Deben Microtest 2 kN tensile stage to characterise ceramics and engineering plastics January 21st, 2016

Multiple uses for the JPK NanoWizard AFM system in the Smart Interfaces in Environmental Nanotechnology Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign January 20th, 2016

Self Assembly

New type of nanowires, built with natural gas heating: UNIST research team developed a new simple nanowire manufacturing technique February 1st, 2016

Researchers develop completely new kind of polymer: Hybrid polymers could lead to new concepts in self-repairing materials, drug delivery and artificial muscles January 30th, 2016

Polymer nanowires that assemble in perpendicular layers could offer route to tinier chip components January 23rd, 2016

Nanodevice, build thyself: Researchers in Germany studied how a multitude of electronic interactions govern the encounter between a molecule called porphine and copper and silver surfaces January 18th, 2016

Discoveries

'Lasers rewired': Scientists find a new way to make nanowire lasers: Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley scientists adapt next-gen solar cell materials for a different purpose February 12th, 2016

Breaking cell barriers with retractable protein nanoneedles: Adapting a bacterial structure, Wyss Institute researchers develop protein actuators that can mechanically puncture cells February 12th, 2016

Replacement of Toxic Antibacterial Agents Possible by Biocompatible Polymeric Nanocomposites February 12th, 2016

Properties of Polymeric Nanofibers Optimized to Treat Damaged Body Tissues February 12th, 2016

Announcements

Graphene leans on glass to advance electronics: Scientists' use of common glass to optimize graphene's electronic properties could improve technologies from flat screens to solar cells February 12th, 2016

Breaking cell barriers with retractable protein nanoneedles: Adapting a bacterial structure, Wyss Institute researchers develop protein actuators that can mechanically puncture cells February 12th, 2016

Replacement of Toxic Antibacterial Agents Possible by Biocompatible Polymeric Nanocomposites February 12th, 2016

Properties of Polymeric Nanofibers Optimized to Treat Damaged Body Tissues February 12th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE





  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic