Multivalent polyions can undergo complex coacervation, producing membraneless compartments that accumulate ribozymes and enhance catalysis, and offering a mechanism for functional prebiotic compartmentalization in the origins of life. Here, we evaluate the impact of lower, more prebiotically-relevant, polyion multivalency on the functional performance of coacervates as compartments. Positively and negatively charged homopeptides with 1–100 residues and adenosine mono-, di-, and triphosphate nucleotides are used as model polyions. Polycation/polyanion pairs are tested for coacervation, and resulting membraneless compartments are analyzed for salt resistance, ability to provide a distinct internal microenvironment (apparent local pH, RNA partitioning), and effect on RNA structure formation. We find that coacervates formed by phase separation of the shorter polyions more effectively generated distinct pH microenvironments, accumulated RNA, and preserved duplexes than those formed by longer polyions. Hence, coacervates formed by reduced multivalency polyions are not only viable as functional compartments for prebiotic chemistries, they can outperform higher molecular weight analogues.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)