Terrestrial geothermal fields and oceanic hydrothermal vents are considered as candidate environments for the emergence of life on Earth. Nevertheless, the ionic strength and salinity of oceans present serious limitations for the self-assembly of amphiphiles, a process that is fundamental for the formation of first protocells. Consequently, we systematically characterized the efficiency of amphiphile assembly, and vesicular stability, in terrestrial geothermal environments, both, under simulated laboratory conditions and in hot spring water samples (collected from Ladakh, India, an Astrobiologically relevant site). Combinations of prebiotically pertinent fatty acids and their derivatives were evaluated for the formation of vesicles in aforesaid scenarios. Additionally, the stability of these vesicles was characterized over multiple dehydration-rehydration cycles, at elevated temperatures. Among the combinations that were tested, mixtures of fatty acid and its glycerol derivatives were found to be the most robust, also resulting in vesicles in all of the hot spring waters that were tested. Importantly, these vesicles were stable at high temperatures, and this fatty acid system retained its vesicle forming propensity, even after multiple cycles of dehydration-rehydration. The remaining systems, however, formed vesicles only in bicine buffer. Our results suggest that certain prebiotic compartments would have had a selective advantage in terrestrial geothermal niches. Significantly, our study highlights the importance of validating results that are obtained under ‘buffered’ laboratory conditions, by verifying their plausibility in prebiotically analogous environments.
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