Elucidating N-acyl amino acids as a model protoamphiphilic system

29 June 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Protoamphiphiles are prebiotically-plausible moieties that would have constituted protocell membranes on early Earth. Although prebiotic soup would have contained a diverse set of amphiphiles capable of generating protocell membranes, earlier studies were mainly limited to fatty acid-based systems. Herein, we characterize N-acyl amino acids (NAAs) as a model protoamphiphilic system. Specifically, we report a new abiotic route for their synthesis under wet-dry cycles from amino acids and monoglycerides via an ester-amide exchange process. We also demonstrate how N-oleoyl glycine (NOG, a representative NAA) results in vesicle formation over a broad pH range when blended with a monoglyceride or a fatty acid. Notably, NOG also acts as a substrate for peptide synthesis under wet-dry cycles, generating different lipopeptides. Overall, our study establishes NAAs as a promising protoamphiphilic system, and highlights their significance in generating robust and functional protocell membranes on primitive Earth.


N-acyl amino acids
wet-dry cycles
ester-amide exchange

Supplementary materials

SI File
Supplementary Information for manuscript titled "Elucidating N-acyl amino acids as a model protoamphiphilic system"


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.