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Population-level Membrane Diversity Triggers Growth and Division of Protocells

preprint
submitted on 14.11.2020, 20:11 and posted on 16.11.2020, 11:08 by Ö. Duhan Toparlak, Anna Wang, Sheref Mansy

To date, multiple mechanisms have been described for the growth and division of model protocells, all of which exploit the cumulative, unidirectional movement of lipids. The aggregate that is more complex grows at the expense of the smaller or less complex aggregate. Imbalances between surface area and volume during growth can generate filamentous vesicles which are typically divided by shear forces. Here we describe another pathway for growth and division that depends simply on differences in composition of fatty acid membranes. Growth is driven by the entropically-favored mixing of lipids between two populations. Division is the result of growth-induced curvature. Importantly, growth and division are cyclic and bidirectional, meaning that vesicles made from one type of lipid, e.g. short-chain fatty acids, grow and divide when fed with vesicles consisting of another type of lipid, e.g. long-chain fatty acids, and vice versa. After equilibration, additional rounds of growth and division are possible through the addition of compositionally distinct vesicles. Since prebiotic synthesis likely gave rise to mixtures of lipids, the data are consistent with the presence of growing and dividing protocells on the prebiotic Earth.

Funding

Simons Foundation (290358FY18 and 290358FY19)

European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 824060

History

Email Address of Submitting Author

sheref.mansy@ualberta.ca

Institution

University of Alberta

Country

Canada

ORCID For Submitting Author

0000-0003-2382-198X

Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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