TY - JOUR

T1 - Onset of natural selection in populations of autocatalytic heteropolymers

AU - Tkachenko, Alexei V.

AU - Maslov, Sergei

N1 - Funding Information:
We would like to thank Paul Higgs who has made a number of valuable comments on this manuscript and, in particular, persuaded us to look harder for multiple stable states in our model. This research used resources of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, which is a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-SC0012704.
Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Author(s).

PY - 2018/10/7

Y1 - 2018/10/7

N2 - Reduction of information entropy along with ever-increasing complexity is among the key signatures of life. Understanding the onset of such behavior in the early prebiotic world is essential for solving the problem of the origin of life. Here we study a general problem of heteropolymers capable of template-assisted ligation based on Watson-Crick-like hybridization. The system is driven off-equilibrium by cyclic changes in the environment. We model the dynamics of 2-mers, i.e., sequential pairs of specific monomers within the heteropolymer population. While the possible number of them is Z2 (where Z is the number of monomer types), we observe that most of the 2-mers get extinct, leaving no more than 2Z survivors. This leads to a dramatic reduction of the information entropy in the sequence space. Our numerical results are supported by a general mathematical analysis of the competition of growing polymers for constituent monomers. This natural-selection-like process ultimately results in a limited subset of polymer sequences. Importantly, the set of surviving sequences depends on initial concentrations of monomers and remains exponentially large (2L down from ZL for length L) in each of realizations. Thus, an inhomogeneity in initial conditions allows for a massively parallel search of the sequence space for biologically functional polymers, such as ribozymes. We also propose potential experimental implementations of our model in the contexts of either biopolymers or artificial nano-structures.

AB - Reduction of information entropy along with ever-increasing complexity is among the key signatures of life. Understanding the onset of such behavior in the early prebiotic world is essential for solving the problem of the origin of life. Here we study a general problem of heteropolymers capable of template-assisted ligation based on Watson-Crick-like hybridization. The system is driven off-equilibrium by cyclic changes in the environment. We model the dynamics of 2-mers, i.e., sequential pairs of specific monomers within the heteropolymer population. While the possible number of them is Z2 (where Z is the number of monomer types), we observe that most of the 2-mers get extinct, leaving no more than 2Z survivors. This leads to a dramatic reduction of the information entropy in the sequence space. Our numerical results are supported by a general mathematical analysis of the competition of growing polymers for constituent monomers. This natural-selection-like process ultimately results in a limited subset of polymer sequences. Importantly, the set of surviving sequences depends on initial concentrations of monomers and remains exponentially large (2L down from ZL for length L) in each of realizations. Thus, an inhomogeneity in initial conditions allows for a massively parallel search of the sequence space for biologically functional polymers, such as ribozymes. We also propose potential experimental implementations of our model in the contexts of either biopolymers or artificial nano-structures.

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U2 - 10.1063/1.5048488

DO - 10.1063/1.5048488

M3 - Article

C2 - 30292218

AN - SCOPUS:85054423315

VL - 149

JO - Journal of Chemical Physics

JF - Journal of Chemical Physics

SN - 0021-9606

IS - 13

M1 - 134901

ER -