DNA is an essential carrier of sequence-based genetic information for all life today. However, the chemical and physical properties of DNA may also affect the structure and dynamics of a vesicle-based model protocell in which it is encapsulated. To test these effects, we constructed a polyethylene glycol-grafted giant vesicle system capable of undergoing growth and division. The system incorporates a specific interaction between DNA and lipophilic catalysts as well as components of PCR. We found that vesicle division depends on the length of the encapsulated DNA, and the self-assembly of an internal supramolecular catalyst possibly leads to the direct causal relationship between DNA length and the capacity of the vesicle to self-reproduce. These results may help elucidate how nucleic acids could have functioned in the division of prebiotic protocells.
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