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Alkanes increase the stability of early life membrane models under extreme pressure and temperature conditions

DOI: 10.1038/s42004-021-00467-5 DOI Help

Authors: Loreto Misuraca (Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS) , Bruno Deme (Institut Laue-Langevin) , Philippe Oger (Univ Lyon, INSA Lyon, CNRS UMR5240) , Judith Peters (Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS; Institut Laue-Langevin)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Communications Chemistry , VOL 4

State: Published (Approved)
Published: February 2021
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 23722

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: Terrestrial life appeared on our planet within a time window of [4.4–3.5] billion years ago. During that time, it is suggested that the first proto-cellular forms developed in the surrounding of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, oceanic crust fractures that are still present nowadays. However, these environments are characterized by extreme temperature and pressure conditions that question the early membrane compartment’s capability to endure a stable structural state. Recent studies proposed an adaptive strategy employed by present-day extremophiles: the use of apolar molecules as structural membrane components in order to tune the bilayer dynamic response when needed. Here we extend this hypothesis on early life protomembrane models, using linear and branched alkanes as apolar stabilizing molecules of prebiotic relevance. The structural ordering and chain dynamics of these systems have been investigated as a function of temperature and pressure. We found that both types of alkanes studied, even the simplest linear ones, impact highly the multilamellar vesicle ordering and chain dynamics. Our data show that alkane-enriched membranes have a lower multilamellar vesicle swelling induced by the temperature increase and are significantly less affected by pressure variation as compared to alkane-free samples, suggesting a possible survival strategy for the first living forms.

Journal Keywords: Fatty acids; Fatty alcohols; Membranes; Chemical origin of life

Subject Areas: Chemistry, Biology and Bio-materials

Instruments: I22-Small angle scattering & Diffraction

Other Facilities: IN13 at Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL)

Added On: 02/03/2021 09:32


Discipline Tags:

Organic Chemistry Life Sciences & Biotech Evolutionary science Chemistry

Technical Tags:

Scattering Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS)