The Influence of Environmental Conditions, Lipid Composition, and Phase Behavior on the Origin of Cell Membranes

 

Abstract

At some point in life’s development, membranes formed, providing barriers between the environment and the interior of the ‘cell.’ This paper evaluates the research to date on the prebiotic origin of cell membranes and highlights possible areas of continuing study. A careful review of the literature uncovered unexpected factors that influence membrane evolution. The major stages in primitive membrane formation and the transition to contemporary cell membranes appear to require an exacting relationship between environmental conditions and amphiphile composition and phase behavior. Also, environmental and compositional requirements for individual stages are in some instances incompatible with one another, potentially stultifying the pathway to contemporary membranes. Previous studies in membrane evolution have noted the effects composition and environment have on membrane formation but the crucial dependence and interdependence on these two factors has not been emphasized. This review makes clear the need to focus future investigations away from proof-of-principle studies towards developing a better understanding of the roles that environmental factors and lipid composition and polymorphic phase behavior played in the origin and evolution of cell membranes.

 

Acknowledgements

We wish to acknowledge the Southwestern College Sabbatical Committee and School Board, and RTB for their financial support for JT and FRR, respectively.

 

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Correspondence to Jacquelyn A. Thomas.

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Thomas, J.A., Rana, F.R. The Influence of Environmental Conditions, Lipid Composition, and Phase Behavior on the Origin of Cell Membranes. Orig Life Evol Biosph 37, 267–285 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11084-007-9065-6

 

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