Dehydration Enhances Prebiotic Lipid Remodeling and Vesicle Formation in Acidic Environments

Luke H. Steller, Martin J. Van Kranendonk, Anna Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The encapsulation of genetic polymers inside lipid bilayer compartments (vesicles) is a vital step in the emergence of cell-based life. However, even though acidic conditions promote many reactions required for generating prebiotic building blocks, prebiotically relevant lipids tend to form denser aggregates at acidic pHs rather than prebiotically useful vesicles that exhibit sufficient solute encapsulation. Here, we describe how dehydration/rehydration (DR) events, a prebiotically relevant physicochemical process known to promote polymerization reactions, can remodel dense lipid aggregates into thin-walled vesicles capable of RNA encapsulation even at acidic pHs. Furthermore, DR events appear to favor the encapsulation of RNA within thin-walled vesicles over more lipid-rich vesicles, thus conferring such vesicles a selective advantage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-139
Number of pages8
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 26 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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