Simple surfactants achieve remarkable long-range order in aqueous environments. This organizing potential is seen most dramatically in biological membranes where phospholipid assemblies both define cell boundaries and provide a ubiquitous structural scaffold for controlling cellular chemistry. Here we consider simple peptides that also spontaneously assemble into exceptionally ordered scaffolds, and review early data suggesting that these structures maintain the functional diversity of proteins. We argue that such scaffolds can achieve the required molecular order and catalytic agility for the emergence of chemical evolution. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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