proteinoid A protein-like substance formed by polymerization of amino acids under inorganic conditions, such as heating to over 140°C. In the 1970s it was discovered that proteinoids could also be formed by relatively mild heating (70°C) in the presence of certain inorganic catalysts (e.g. phosphoric acid). In water, proteinoids aggregate to form small round bodies called proteinoid microspheres, or ‘protocells’. These have certain attributes of living cells, such as a differentially permeable filmlike outer layer, the ability to swell and shrink due to osmotic movements of water, and the capability for budding and binary fission. It has been proposed that such microspheres could have provided a suitable vehicle for the chemical components of life to evolve a primitive form of metabolism and pave the way for the emergence of the first living cells.
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