Abstract
COMPLEX COACERVATION AT THE ORIGIN OF LIFE: COMPLEX COACERVATE AS PROTOCELLS & MEMBRANELESS ORGANELLES

Dr. Partha Sarathi Roy*

ABSTRACT

Complex coacervation [formation of a dense macroion-rich phase (the coacervate) in equilibrium with a dilute macroion-poor phase (continuous phase or supernatant)] is a particular case of associative phase separation that occurs when oppositely charged macroions (or polyelectrolytes) are mixed. Since the pioneering work of Bungenberg de Jong and co-workers on gelatin–acacia gum complex coacervation in the 1920–40s, coacervates have received increasing research interest because a variety of mature and emerging technologies depend critically on the association of oppositely charged polymers or particles. Such association could involve charge complexation in solution. Analogous to membraneless organelles, complex coacervates are water droplets dispersed in water and formed by spontaneous liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) of an aqueous solution of two oppositely charged polyelectrolytes to form a dense polyelectrolyte-rich phase (coacervate) and a more dilute solution. The literature on complex coacervation is daunting because of its size, breadth of discipline (spanning physical chemistry, bio-chemistry, colloid science, chemical, biological, biomedical, and materials engineering, among others), and engagement of both natural and synthetic polymers in a myriad of combinations with other charged and uncharged components. While not aiming at an exhaustive coverage of the field, in this review, we restrict our discussion in describing and contextualizing the recent advances in the science and engineering of polymer-polymer complex coacervates, outlining complex coacervate as protocells & membraneless organelles.

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