Date of Graduation

Spring 2015

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Major

Chemistry - Biochemistry

Research Sponsor

Dr. Nita Sahai

First Reader

Dr. Thomas Leeper

Second Reader

Dr. Adam Smith

Abstract

Understanding how life could have emerged on Earth is a very old problem that is still far from being resolved. Minerals have long been proposed to play a role in the formation of the first cell, but only few experimental data were reported concerning the mineral-lipid interactions. In the present work, calcein leakage assay, a fluorescence based experiment, and dynamic light scattering measurements were used to examine the effects of mineral properties and of MgCl2 on the formation and the stability of vesicles formed from single-chain amphiphiles (SCA), which are believed to have been present on early Earth. The results showed that minerals do not have significant effect on SCA vesicles, but the latter appeared to be very sensitive to MgCl2 (a fatal concentration of ~7 mM, under the tested conditions). These results demarcate the parameters of the viability of a protocell and suggest an early Earth’s site for the emergence of life where high mineral loading could be present, but only low Mg2+ concentrations could be tolerated.

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