In the 1920’s Oparin hypothesized that membrane free compartments formed by coacervation would have provided a viable route to compartmentalize prebiotic reactions as a precursor to the modern cell. Studies which support this hypothesis are limited in that the precise chemical composition and conditions on prebiotic earth remain a mystery. Despite this, using bottom-up approaches allows us to generate physically relevant protocell models in the lab. This provides a means to unravel the effect of compartmentalization by coacervation can have provided a selection pressure for facilitating the transition from a chemical world to a biological world.
Here, I will present strategies for the design and synthesis of protocell models based on liquid-liquid phase separation of oppositely charged components (coacervates) and describe how these compartments could be viable protocells models by that undergo growth and division and provide alternative environments compared to buffer solution to tune reaction kinetics.