It is plain that we cannot discuss adequately the origin of life or the possibility of the artificial construction of living matter (see Abiogenesis and Biogenesis) until the chemistry of protoplasm and specially of proteid is more advanced.
Under certain conditions, as when latex is allowed to stand or is centrifugalized, a cream is obtained consisting of the liquid globules, which may be washed free from proteid without change, but, either by mechanical agitation or by the addition of acid or other chemical agent, the liquid gradually solidifies to a mass of solid caoutchouc. The phenomenon therefore resembles the change known to the chemist as polymerization, by which through molecular aggregation a liquid may pass into a solid without change in its empirical composition.
R, Optical section of leptoid (sieve-tube segment) of Phanerogam, with two proteid (companion) cells.
The plant, on the other hand, if it be a green plant, containing chlorophyll, is capable, in the presence of light, of building up both carbohydrate material and proteid material from inorganic salts; if it be a fungus, devoid of chlorophyll, whilst it is dependent on pre-existing carbohydrate material and is capable of absorbing, like an animal, proteid material as such, it is able to build up its proteid food from material chemically simpler than proteid.
The water taken up by the root from the soil contains nitrogenous and mineral salts which combine with the first product of photo-synthesis - a carbohydrate - to form more complicated nitrogen-containing food substances of a proteid nature; these are then distributed by other elements of the vascular bundles (the phloem) through the leaf to the stem and so throughout the plant to wherever growth or development is going on.
The proteid matter combines with a part of the tannin in the wine, forming an insoluble tannate, and this gradually subsides to the bottom of the cask, dragging with it the mechanically suspended matters which are the main cause of the wine's turbidity.
Now differences in the amount of crystalloids cause alteration in osmotic pressure while the proteid content affects it but little; and of the crystalloids the chlorides appear to be those most liable to variation.
In order to prevent decomposition of any proteid impurity which may remain incorporated with the rubber, the freshly coagulated rubber is sometimes cured in the smoke of burning wood or a small quantity of an antiseptic such as creosote is added during coagulation.
Though an enormous of amount of work has been done on the subject, no important bacterial toxin has as yet been obtained in a pure condition, and, though many of them are probably of proteid nature, even this cannot be asserted with absolute certainty.
The animal cell can absorb its carbohydrate and proteid food only in the form of carbohydrate and proteid; it is dependent, in fact, on the pre-existence of these organic substances, themselves the products of living matter, and in this respect the animal is essentially a parasite on existing animal and plant life.