Molecular Evolution and Protobiology

pp 233-251

Protocell Action Potentials: A New Perspective of Bio-Excitation

  • Wilford P. StrattenAffiliated withRose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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The term bio-excitation generates many mental pictures ranging from the machinations of the brain, responsiveness to environmental stimuli, facilitated efferent motor responses, electrical discharges, ionic gradients, membrane structure, etc. At the cellular level, those familiar with excitation immediately retrieve one model or another upon which they have depended for mental imagery. Some begin with a precise phospholipid bilayer membrane peppered with protein gates or carriers with precision architecture. Others also consider the biochemical and energy transfer processes associated with active transport, and maintenance of membrane anisotropy. The eons of natural selection which have allowed the development of such sophisticated electrochemical processes concerns yet others. And there are many primarily concerned with the process by which external chemical, electromagnetic, or mechanical energies are converted into excitation. But what becomes of all of these images if it is suddenly found that simple heating and subsequent hydration of amino acid mixtures results in spherical structures manifesting all fundamental characteristics of excitation? There is no need for biological evolution. There is no need for phospholipid. There is no need for nucleotide control of protein precision.