Noise-induced symmetry breaking far from equilibrium and the emergence of biological homochirality

Farshid Jafarpour, Tommaso Biancalani, Nigel Goldenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The origin of homochirality, the observed single-handedness of biological amino acids and sugars, has long been attributed to autocatalysis, a frequently assumed precursor for early life self-replication. However, the stability of homochiral states in deterministic autocatalytic systems relies on cross-inhibition of the two chiral states, an unlikely scenario for early life self-replicators. Here we present a theory for a stochastic individual-level model of autocatalytic prebiotic self-replicators that are maintained out of thermal equilibrium. Without chiral inhibition, the racemic state is the global attractor of the deterministic dynamics, but intrinsic multiplicative noise stabilizes the homochiral states. Moreover, we show that this noise-induced bistability is robust with respect to diffusion of molecules of opposite chirality, and systems of diffusively coupled autocatalytic chemical reactions synchronize their final homochiral states when the self-replication is the dominant production mechanism for the chiral molecules. We conclude that nonequilibrium autocatalysis is a viable mechanism for homochirality, without imposing additional nonlinearities such as chiral inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number032407
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 10 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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