Based on a new model of a possible origin of life, we propose an efficient and stable system undergoing structural reproduction, self-optimization, and molecular evolution. This system is being formed under realistic conditions by the interaction of two cyclic processes, one of which offers vesicles as the structural environment, with the other supplying peptides from a variety of amino acids as versatile building blocks. We demonstrate that structures growing in a combination of both cycles have the potential to support their own existence, to undergo chemical and structural evolution, and to develop unpredicted functional properties. The key mechanism is the mutual stabilization of the peptides by the vesicles and of the vesicles by the peptides together with a constant production and selection of both. The development of the proposed system over time would not only represent one of the principles of life, but could also be a model for the formation of self-evolving structures ultimately leading to the first living cell. The experiment yields clear evidence for a vesicle-induced accumulation of membrane-interacting peptide which could be identified by liquid chromatography combined with high-resolution mass spectroscopy. We found that the selected peptide has an immediate effect on the vesicles, leading to (i) reduced vesicle size, (ii) increased vesicle membrane permeability, and (iii) improved thermal vesicle stability.
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