Spontaneous emergence of self-replication in chemical reaction systems

Status Report From: bioRxiv
Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Yu Liu, David J. T. Sumpter
This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed.


Explaining origins of life requires us to explain how self-replication arises. Specifically, how can self-replicating entities develop spontaneously from chemical reaction systems in which no reaction is self-replicating? Previously proposed mathematical models either supply a framework for a minimal living system or only consider catalyzed reactions, and thus fail to provide a comprehensive theory. We set up a general model for chemical reaction systems that properly accounts for energetics, kinetics and conservation laws. We find that (1) some systems are collectively-catalytic (e.g., the citric acid cycle), while some others self-replicate as a whole (e.g., the formose reaction); (2) side reactions do not always inhibit such systems; (3) many alternative chemical universes often contain one or more such systems; (4) it is possible to construct a self-replicating system where the entropy of some parts spontaneously decreases, in a manner similar to that discussed by Schrodinger; (5) complex self-replicating molecules can emerge spontaneously and relatively easily from simple chemical reaction systems through a sequence of transitions. Together these results start to explain the origins of prebiotic evolution.

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