A team of researchers has discovered that protein building blocks can stabilize cell membranes, a trait which may explain how the first cells began to form billions of years ago. The membranes play an important role in protecting the new cells against the high salt and ion concentrations, which were present in ancient oceans.
The environmental conditions encountered on Earth four million years ago were considerably different in comparison to modern times. As they were floating in the primordial soup, the cells required specific ions to perform their tasks. For a long time, researchers were puzzled by these conditions since the ions would have ruined the membranes which protect the cells.
To tackle this issue, the team of researchers focused on molecules which would have been present on the Earth then. During the study, the researchers observed specially-made cell compartments, which were guarded by membranes of fatty acid molecules. Data collected during this stage inferred that amino acids, which are known as the building blocks of proteins, can stabilize the membranes against magnesium ions.
Scientists Revealed How The First Cells Appeared On Ancient Earth
This process paved the way to the appearance of RNA, a molecule similar to DNA which needs magnesium to work. Within the study, the researchers also explore how membranes adapted to different environments and how the building blocks of specific cellular structures interacted with water.
According to one of the main contributors to the paper, the inspiration came from observing the fact that fatty acids can form membranes, leading to a hypothesis which argued that the membranes could have been a favorable surface for the appearance of RNA and other proteins.
The mechanism has been compared to fuzzy balls which tend to stick on a surface covered with Velcro, while other balls continue to move around. Further research is already underway as the team wants to learn more about the building blocks. The results were published in a scientific journal.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere