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

Quantum states in a nano-object manipulated using a mechanical system August 3rd, 2015

Nanoparticles used to breach mucus barrier in lungs: Proof-of-concept study conducted in mice a key step toward better treatments for lung diseases August 3rd, 2015

Promising Step Taken in Iran towards Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury August 3rd, 2015

Diagnosis of Salmonella Bacterium-Caused Food Poisoning by Biosensors August 3rd, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Small tilt in magnets makes them viable memory chips August 3rd, 2015

Vaccine with virus-like nanoparticles effective treatment for RSV, study finds August 3rd, 2015

MIPT researchers clear the way for fast plasmonic chips August 3rd, 2015

Nanoparticles used to breach mucus barrier in lungs: Proof-of-concept study conducted in mice a key step toward better treatments for lung diseases August 3rd, 2015

Academic/Education

Pakistani Students Who Survived Terror Attack to Attend Weeklong “NanoDiscovery Institute” at SUNY Poly CNSE in Albany July 29th, 2015

Deben reports on the use of their CT500 in the X-ray microtomography laboratory at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia July 22nd, 2015

JPK reports on the use of SPM in the Messersmith Group at UC Berkeley looking at biologically inspired polymer adhesives. July 21st, 2015

Renishaw adds Raman analysis to Scanning Electron Microscopy at the University of Sydney, Australia July 9th, 2015

Self Assembly

Self-assembling, biomimetic membranes may aid water filtration August 1st, 2015

New computer model could explain how simple molecules took first step toward life: Two Brookhaven researchers developed theoretical model to explain the origins of self-replicating molecules July 28th, 2015

Spintronics: Molecules stabilizing magnetism: Organic molecules fixing the magnetic orientation of a cobalt surface/ building block for a compact and low-cost storage technology/ publication in Nature Materials July 25th, 2015

Imec introduces self-assembled monomolecular organic films to seal ultra-porous low- k materials: Method prevents leakage of barrier precursors during the interconnect metallization scheme July 15th, 2015

Discoveries

Small tilt in magnets makes them viable memory chips August 3rd, 2015

Better together: Graphene-nanotube hybrid switches August 3rd, 2015

Vaccine with virus-like nanoparticles effective treatment for RSV, study finds August 3rd, 2015

MIPT researchers clear the way for fast plasmonic chips August 3rd, 2015

Announcements

Quantum states in a nano-object manipulated using a mechanical system August 3rd, 2015

Nanoparticles used to breach mucus barrier in lungs: Proof-of-concept study conducted in mice a key step toward better treatments for lung diseases August 3rd, 2015

Promising Step Taken in Iran towards Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury August 3rd, 2015

Diagnosis of Salmonella Bacterium-Caused Food Poisoning by Biosensors August 3rd, 2015

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