First cells may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes

First cells may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes
Images of membranes (circles) taken using transmission electron cryomicroscopy. Top: membranes in a solution that contains no amino acids. Bottom: membranes in a solution containing serine, an amino acid, which triggers membranes to form multiple layers of concentric membranes. Scale bars: 100 nanometers. Credit: Alex Mileant/Caitlin Cornell/University of Washington

Life on Earth arose about 4 billion years ago when the first cells formed within a primordial soup of complex, carbon-rich chemical compounds.

These cells faced a chemical conundrum. They needed particular ions from the soup in order to perform basic functions. But those charged ions would have disrupted the simple membranes that encapsulated the cells.

A team of researchers at the University of Washington has solved this puzzle using only molecules that would have been present on the early Earth. Using cell-sized, fluid-filled compartments surrounded by membranes made of fatty molecules, the team discovered that amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, can stabilize membranes against magnesium ions. Their results set the stage for the first cells to encode their genetic information in RNA, a molecule related to DNA that requires magnesium for its production, while maintaining the stability of the .

The findings, published the week of Aug. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, go beyond explaining how amino acids could have stabilized membranes in unfavorable environments. They also demonstrate how the individual building blocks of cellular structures—membranes, proteins and RNA—could have co-localized within watery environments on the ancient Earth.

"Cells are made up of very different types of structures with totally different types of building blocks, and it has never been clear why they would come together in a functional way," said co-corresponding author Roy Black, a UW affiliate professor of chemistry and bioengineering. "The assumption was just that—somehow—they did come together."

First cells may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes
Images of membranes (circles) taken using transmission electron cryomicroscopy. Top: membranes in a solution of magnesium chloride, a salt that disrupts membranes, and no amino acids. Bottom: membranes in a solution of magnesium chloride and serine, an amino acid, which triggers membranes to form multiple layers of concentric membranes. Scale bars: 100 nanometers. Credit: Alex Mileant/Caitlin Cornell/University of Washington

Black came to the UW after a career at Amgen for the opportunity to fill in the crucial, missing details behind that "somehow." He teamed up with Sarah Keller, a UW professor of chemistry and an expert on membranes. Black had been inspired by the observation that fatty acid molecules can self-assemble to form membranes, and hypothesized that these membranes could act as a favorable surface to assemble the building blocks of RNA and proteins.

"You can imagine different types of molecules moving within the primordial soup as fuzzy tennis balls and hard squash balls bouncing around in a big box that is being shaken," said Keller, who is also co-corresponding author on the paper. "If you line one surface inside the box with Velcro, then only the tennis balls will stick to that surface, and they will end up close together. Roy had the insight that local concentrations of molecules could be enhanced by a similar mechanism."

The team previously showed that the building blocks of RNA preferentially attach to fatty acid membranes and, surprisingly, also stabilize the fragile membranes against detrimental effects of salt, a common compound on Earth past and present.

The team hypothesized that amino acids might also stabilize membranes. They used a variety of experimental techniques—including , electron microscopy and spectroscopy—to test how 10 different amino acids interacted with membranes. Their experiments revealed that certain amino acids bind to membranes and stabilize them. Some amino acids even triggered large structural changes in membranes, such as forming concentric spheres of membranes—much like layers of an onion.

"Amino acids were not just protecting vesicles from disruption by magnesium ions, but they also created multilayered vesicles—like nested membranes," said lead author Caitlin Cornell, a UW doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry.

First cells may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes
A model of how the building blocks of the first cells may have co-localized on membranes. Left: the building blocks of membranes, RNA and proteins in the primordial soup. Middle: membranes form (grey circle) and bind a subset of the building blocks, which in turn stabilize the membranes. Right: functional RNA and proteins encased by the membrane. Credit: Roy Black/Sarah Keller/University of Washington

The researchers also discovered that amino acids stabilized membranes through changes in concentration. Some scientists have hypothesized that the first cells may have formed within shallow basins that went through cycles of high and low concentrations of amino acids as water evaporated and as new water washed in.

The new findings that protect membranes—as well as prior results showing that RNA building blocks can play a similar role—indicate that membranes may have been a site for these precursor molecules to co-localize, providing a potential mechanism to explain what brought together the ingredients for life.

Keller, Black and their team will turn their attention next to how co-localized building blocks did something even more remarkable: They bound to each other to form functional machines.

"That is the next step," said Black.

Their ongoing efforts are also forging ties across disciplines at the UW.

"The University of Washington is an unusually good place to make discoveries because of the enthusiasm of the scientific community to work collaboratively to share equipment and ideas across departments and fields," said Keller. "Our collaborations with the Drobny Lab and the Lee Lab were essential. No single laboratory could have done it all."


Explore further

Origin of life insight: peptides can form without amino acids

More information: Caitlin E. Cornell el al., "Prebiotic amino acids bind to and stabilize prebiotic fatty acid membranes," PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1900275116
Citation: First cells may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes (2019, August 12) retrieved 23 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-cells-emerged-blocks-proteins-stabilized.html
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Aug 12, 2019
I don't believe one needs to be a Nobel laureate to realize that life is far too complex to have evolved through random processes or evolution. And, happily, the wheels are finally coming off those theories. Maybe now someone can figure out what really happened. And that person will earn a Nobel prize.

Aug 12, 2019
How un-sage of you, Bob...

Aug 12, 2019
@Bob
There is no such thing as a Nobel Prize in Bible Studies.

Aug 12, 2019
Does ID explain the unused hip bone of sea mammals?

Aug 12, 2019
oh deer, a another babble-thumper wandered away from his sanitarium

now sit right there bobbie & have some nice juice & cookies
while we wait for your caretakers to retrieve you

good boy...

hmmm...
think we could get him to roll over & fetch?

i know, i know...
i am am evil. evil man!

Aug 12, 2019
can't explain life's complexity by random forces? Randomness is the ultimate complexity.

Let's explain how a perfect creator can't seem to create a perfect human being. Oh yes, let's see the god concept explain any aspect of nature!

Aug 12, 2019
can't explain life's complexity by random forces? Randomness is the ultimate complexity.

Let's explain how a perfect creator can't seem to create a perfect human being. Oh yes, let's see the god concept explain any aspect of nature!


Humans were not created to be "perfect", only to procreate and fill the world with their kind and to be good stewards of the Earth. Plus obeying the Laws of their Creator. If God had created humans to be perfect, they would all be happy all the time, with no conflicts in the world. No sickness, no worries, and none of the BS that many humans face almost every day.
But perfection falls short of revealing the true 'nature' of the human. And it is that true nature that will determine whether or not an individual human will be rewarded for being good.
Nothing is random even if sometimes it seems that way. And there are no coincidences.

Aug 12, 2019
Does ID explain the unused hip bone of sea mammals?
say O_C_C

I thought we had that all cleared up already. They went onto the land where they evolved to walk or crawl on sand,
then their land mass sank back into the water where they had to learn how to swim all over again.

Aug 13, 2019
Life on the Earth was planned and programmed to emerge. The molecules were available and ready to come together to form the membrane and its interior. But it wasn't a living cell yet. The blueprint of life was in that membrane. But a blueprint is not life. Something else had to happen. And when the life-giving properties were bestowed on the membrane and its inner self, it came alive and began to move, to assimilate, to consume, digest, metabolise, eliminate waste, and it learned. And as it learned, what it had learnt was recorded in its DNA and RNA which was something brand new. Its ribonucleic acid was a storehouse of information that enabled the tiny cell to be the best that it could be. When finally the cell divided, it passed on its information to its daughter cell. And that divided also. Soon there were millions of daughter cells floating about in the waters of Earth. And one day, some kind of chemistry happened that pulled the cells together into a mass of cells in the water.

Aug 13, 2019
can't explain life's complexity by random forces? Randomness is the ultimate complexity.

Let's explain how a perfect creator can't seem to create a perfect human being. Oh yes, let's see the god concept explain any aspect of nature!


Humans were not created to be "perfect", only to procreate and fill the world with their kind and to be good stewards of the Earth. Plus obeying the Laws of their Creator. If God had created humans to be perfect, they would all be happy all the time, with no conflicts in the world. No sickness, no worries, and none of the BS that many humans face almost every day.
But perfection falls short of revealing the true 'nature' of the human. And it is that true nature that will determine whether or not an individual human will be rewarded for being good.
Nothing is random even if sometimes it seems that way. And there are no coincidences.[

of course humans weren't created perfect; otherwise, god can't put people in hell!

Aug 13, 2019
"Nothing is random even if sometimes it seems that way. And there are no coincidences." - there goes miracles!

Aug 13, 2019
Miracles? You can make your own miracles by living right and following the rules. It's not rocket science.

Aug 13, 2019
Miracles? You can make your own miracles by living right and following the rules. It's not rocket science.


since when do you say what god does and doesn't do?

Aug 13, 2019
can't explain life's complexity by random forces? Randomness is the ultimate complexity.

Let's explain how a perfect creator can't seem to create a perfect human being. Oh yes, let's see the god concept explain any aspect of nature!


Humans were not created to be "perfect", only to procreate and fill the world with their kind and to be good stewards of the Earth. Plus obeying the Laws of their Creator. If God had created humans to be perfect, they would all be happy all the time, with no conflicts in the world. No sickness, no worries, and none of the BS that many humans face almost every day.
But perfection falls short of revealing the true 'nature' of the human. And it is that true nature that will determine whether or not an individual human will be rewarded for being good.
No...

of course humans weren't created perfect; otherwise, god can't put people in hell!


LOL It isn't God who puts you in hell; it is YOU that does it. Epstein has done it.

Aug 13, 2019
Miracles? You can make your own miracles by living right and following the rules. It's not rocket science.


since when do you say what god does and doesn't do?


Let's just say that I have "connections".

Aug 13, 2019
"LOL It isn't God who puts you in hell; it is YOU that does it. Epstein has done it."

Oh, o.k. god creates everything, but humans override it! According to you!

Aug 13, 2019
and who's this connections?

Aug 13, 2019
The first cells had to evolve after joining into a mass of cells. Most Christians don't believe in the process of Evolution, and I think it's because it isn't written into the bible. It could not have been since it was only discovered by Darwin. But even with knowing that, some Christian sects insist that evolution doesn't happen. They choose ignorance.

Aug 13, 2019
"LOL It isn't God who puts you in hell; it is YOU that does it. Epstein has done it."

Oh, o.k. god creates everything, but humans override it! According to you!


Now you've got it. J. Epstein did it to himself. Do you think that a jerk like him deserved to go to Heaven? LOL

Aug 13, 2019
How about all these mass murderers. Do you think that they deserve better? There are about a trillion cells in the average body, and each one is a little machine. They have no say in what you do, but what YOU do affects them.

Aug 13, 2019
I thought we had that all cleared up already.


Duh.

I was referring to Intelligent Design i.e. ID. And how they explain the unused hip bone of sea mammals.

Aug 13, 2019
They keep getting closer and closer. Eventually they'll work it out and actually make cells from chemicals present on the Earth at the time.

Denying it won't make it go away. This is a pretty interesting finding; it stabilizes membranes in the primordial environment. They've been fussing with that for a couple decades at least. Next, as the article says, comes getting the right chemicals inside the membranes. And that's where they're headed.

Aug 13, 2019
I thought we had that all cleared up already.


Duh.

I was referring to Intelligent Design i.e. ID. And how they explain the unused hip bone of sea mammals.
says O_C_C_

Trust me. It has everything to do with Evolution. The Intelligent Design was in the very BEGINNING when the first CELLS were created. After the fact is when the animal came onto land, and evolved the hip bone for walking on land and then had to go back into the water due to unfavourable conditions. Luckily, it still had its fins.

Aug 13, 2019
They keep getting closer and closer. Eventually they'll work it out and actually make cells from chemicals present on the Earth at the time.

Denying it won't make it go away. This is a pretty interesting finding; it stabilizes membranes in the primordial environment. They've been fussing with that for a couple decades at least. Next, as the article says, comes getting the right chemicals inside the membranes. And that's where they're headed.


A bunch of chemicals - even the perceived RIGHT chemicals - don't make it Life. It will only be dead matter made of atoms/molecules without the required ANIMATION.

If such a thing were possible, for scientists to bring inanimate molecules together to make a membrane for a cell, it still won't be endowed with the Life Force, ergo not Life. Try as they might, it will be a waste of resources. But your Master might be able to hold it up and make it dance around for the scientists to think that they've given it Life. LOL

Aug 13, 2019
Humans were not created to be "perfect", only to procreate and fill the world with their kind and to be good stewards of the Earth. Plus obeying the Laws of their Creator. If God had created humans to be perfect, they would all be happy all the time, with no conflicts in the world. No sickness, no worries, and none of the BS that many humans face almost every day.

If I remember correctly, didn't god create man as image of himself? So either god is not perfect or humans are perfect. I support the first one.

Aug 13, 2019
Interesting, but not very surprising since cells are chemical conglomerates.

life is far too complex to have evolved through random processes or evolution.


The opposite is the fact, the process of life is the observed evolution, everyone knows that [ https://en.wikipe...volution ]; it is perverse to try to claim something else because everyone can visit the NCBI site (say) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ , chose a protein gene to blast (say) https://blast.ncb...stSearch and then tree it to test evolution themselves in a matter of hours (the first time) https://mafft.cbr.../server/ . Simple as that.

And we have known for years now that life evolved from geological formations through a half life universal ancestor lineage [ https://www.natur...l2016116 ], consistent with what we know from Earth history (born sterile, now isn't).

That fact is evident in your desperate handwaving with no evidence at all.

Aug 13, 2019
didn't god create man as image of himself?


Depends on the magic superstition of your choice, other ones claim that man always existed (Australian religions) or that man came out of 'joy tears' of magic beings (African religions).

In any case, we now know religion is delusion as much as astrology (say) is known to be - the standard cosmology in a flat universe fortuitously tell us the universe is 100 % mechanistic on scales larger than local galaxy groups. And at least our own neighborhood is mechanistic too out to (much) larger scales, we know that from modeling Laniakea [ https://en.wikipe...rcluster ].

Honestly, why are the deluded going on with their erroneous ideas on a science site, except for emoting their anxiety when seeing they have been deluded? It is pitiful, to say the least.

Aug 13, 2019
The Babble-thumpers have been whining about this since Miller-Urey. It's now obvious that everything needed is not merely already produced but already present for life to occur on the primordial Earth. Denying it isn't going to work. There's too much evidence.

Aug 13, 2019
trying to present facts to the babbling fools of primitive sanguine cults such as seu is useless

these are nothing more than poorly coded, cheap circuit boards at a wahhabist Dark Wen site
just an agitator for superstition & submissive ignorance

Aug 14, 2019
The first cells had to evolve after joining into a mass of cells. Most Christians don't believe in the process of Evolution, and I think it's because it isn't written into the bible. It could not have been since it was only discovered by Darwin. But even with knowing that, some Christian sects insist that evolution doesn't happen. They choose ignorance.

Darwin didn't "discover" it. He rudimentarily described and detailed it...
A bunch of chemicals - even the perceived RIGHT chemicals - don't make it Life. It will only be dead matter made of atoms/molecules without the required ANIMATION.

You forgot to add in some additional variables as heat and charge, gravity and maybe even a little kinetic motion...

Aug 16, 2019
Humans were not created to be "perfect", only to procreate and fill the world with their kind and to be good stewards of the Earth. Plus obeying the Laws of their Creator. If God had created humans to be perfect, they would all be happy all the time, with no conflicts in the world. No sickness, no worries, and none of the BS that many humans face almost every day.

If I remember correctly, didn't god create man as image of himself? So either god is not perfect or humans are perfect. I support the first one.
says Cortezz

Good questions. God created the first man in His Own Image. But the man was created from the damp clay in which animals had walked so that their DNA was in it. When the man was formed and created, he was part animal due to the cells from animals, which is why man shares DNA with apes, dogs, horses, elephants, etc. And all are made of physical Matter/Energy. There was no reason at all to make a 'perfect' man or one that could be immortal.

Aug 16, 2019
The first cells had to evolve after joining into a mass of cells. Most Christians don't believe in the process of Evolution,....it was only discovered by Darwin.

Darwin didn't "discover" it. He rudimentarily described and detailed it...
A bunch of chemicals - even the perceived RIGHT chemicals - don't make it Life. It will only be dead matter made of atoms/molecules without the required ANIMATION.

You forgot to add in some additional variables as heat and charge, gravity and maybe even a little kinetic motion...
says Whyde

Darwin 'discovered' the PROCESS of Evolution. Heat and charge? And gravity? They are all part of the process in the creating of a Life FORM. It goes without saying that all would be included in the mechanics of creating a cell. Nothing could be omitted. But nevertheless, it is still ONLY the MATRIX. The Life FORCE itself is not possible to be instilled into the Matrix of a cell. It cannot be done by humans. Of course, they could lie.

Aug 16, 2019
trying to present facts to the babbling fools of primitive sanguine cults such as seu is useless

these are nothing more than poorly coded, cheap circuit boards at a wahhabist Dark Wen site
just an agitator for superstition & submissive ignorance
says rrwillsj

Still no maths or scientific theories/hypotheses/facts coming out of you, eh rrwilliejoe? Are you here in this site just to basically shoot your 'mouth' off while saying nothing of any value?
OK We all know the answer to that after reading all of your useless posts for years now, while you have been pretending to be adding something of great importance. It must have gone to your head that you are allowed to use a computer to get onto the internet by your caretakers. Do your parents know what a nasty, bad girl you are?

Aug 16, 2019
Butbutbutt Xenu made teh life!!!12111!!oneoneeleventyone!!!/s

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