The „Missing Link“ Between Prebiotic and Organic Life –Has It Been Found?
In 2010, scientists discovered that simple peptides can organize into bi-layer membranes. The finding suggests a “missing link” between the pre-biotic Earth’s chemical inventory and the organizational scaffolding essential to life. Many groups studying the origins of life have focused on RNA, which is believed to have pre-dated living cells. But RNA is a much more complicated molecule than a peptide. The 2010 studies showed that, if you just add water, simple peptides access both the physical properties and the long-range molecular order that is critical to the origins of chemical evolution.
“This is a boon to our understanding of large, structural assemblies of molecules,” said Emory Chemistry Chair David Lynn, who helped lead the effort, which were collaborations of the departments of chemistry, biology and physics. “We’ve proved that peptides can organize as bi-layers, and we’ve generated the first, real-time imaging of the self-assembly process. We can actually watch in real-time as these nano-machines make themselves.”
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