A renewal model for the emergence of anomalous solute crowding in liposomes
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A fundamental evolutionary step in the onset of living cells is thought to be the spontaneous formation of lipid vesicles (liposomes) in the pre-biotic mixture. Even though it is well known that hydrophobic forces drive spontaneous liposome formation in aqueous solutions, how the components of the earliest biochemical pathways were trapped and concentrated in the forming vesicles is an issue that still needs to be clarified. In recent years, some authors carried out a set of experiments where a unexpectedly high amount of solutes were found in a small number of liposomes, spontaneously formed in aqueous solution. A great number of empty liposomes were found in the same experiments and the global observed behavior was that of a distribution of solute particles into liposomes in agreement with a inverse power-law function rather than with the expected Poisson distribution. The chemical and physical mechanisms leading to the observed "anomalous solute crowding" are still unclear, but the non-Poisson power-law behavior is associated with some cooperative behavior with strong non-linear interactions in the biochemical processes occurring in the solution. For tackling this issue we propose a model grounding on the Cox's theory of renewal point processes, which many authors consider to play a central role in the description of complex cooperative systems. Starting from two very basic hypotheses and the renewal assumption, we derive a model reproducing the behavior outlined above. In particular, we show that the assumption of a "cooperative" interaction between the solute molecules and the forming liposomes is sufficient for the emergence of the observed power-law behavior. Even though our approach does not provide experimental evidences of the chemical and physical bases of the solute crowding, it suggests promising directions for experimental research and it also provide a first theoretical prediction that could possibly be tested in future experimental investigations.