Exploring single chain amphiphile self-assembly and their possible roles in light transduction

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Self-assembled structures of single-chain amphiphiles have been used as hosts for biochemical, and chemical reactions. Their use as models for protocells (i.e., precursors to the first biological cells) has been extensively researched by various groups because the availability of single chain amphiphiles on the early Earth seems reasonably well-documented either by exo-terrestrial delivery or endogeneous syntheses, a fact that singles them out as potential building blocks of primitive membranes.
These studies have highlighted two important aspects of the self-assembly of single chain amphiphiles: the medium composition in terms of ionic strengths and the medium physical parameters, such as temperature, significantly influence the formation of structures, as well as their subsequent stability. In addition, membranes composed of a single amphiphile type seem to be implausible as no potential amphiphile source studied to date can supply one single type of amphiphile at concentrations conducive to self-assembly.
Mixtures of single-chain amphiphiles were therefore proposed to better model primitive membranes and potentially enhance their structural integrity1-3. Recently, we have established that complex mixtures of fatty acids with varying hydrocarbon chain length from C2 to C10:0 can form membranous structures with enhanced properties1, as mixtures of two short single-chain amphiphiles with opposite headgroup charges do3. We have further demonstrated that these simple membranes can contain prebiotic pigments, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which can function as light harvesting systems1. Thus, mixed membranes formed by single chain amphiphile and PAHs could represent simple primitive energy uptake systems which transduce light into chemical energy that can power an internalized catalytic network.


1 Cape, J., et al. (2011) Chem. Sci., 2 (4), 661-667.
2 Maurer, S. E., et al. (2009) Astrobiology, 9, 979-987.
3 Caschera, F., et al. Langmuir, In press.
Publikationsdato27. okt. 2011
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 27. okt. 2011


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