A classical conundrum in origin-of-life studies relates to the nature of the first chemical system: was it a carrier of genetic information or a facilitator of cellular compartmentalization? Here we present a system composed of tailor-made nucleolipids and hydrated monoolein, which assemble at ambient temperatures to form host–guest lipidic cubic phase (LCP) materials that are stable in bulk water and can perform both functions. As such, they may represent a molecular model for a protocell in origin-of-life studies. Nucleolipids within the lipidic material sequester and bind selectively complementary oligonucleotide sequences from solution by virtue of base-pairing; noncomplementary sequences diffuse freely between the LCP material and the bulk aqueous environment. Sequence specific enrichment of nucleic acids within the LCP material demonstrates an effective mechanism for selection of genetic material in these cell-mimetic systems.