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Biosystems. 2001 Apr-May;60(1-3):49-57.

Autocatalysis, information and coding.

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Department of Physics, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.


Autocatalytic self-construction in macromolecular systems requires the existence of a reflexive relationship between structural components and the functional operations they perform to synthesise themselves. The possibility of reflexivity depends on formal, semiotic features of the catalytic structure-function relationship, that is, the embedding of catalytic functions in the space of polymeric structures. Reflexivity is a semiotic property of some genetic sequences. Such sequences may serve as the basis for the evolution of coding as a result of autocatalytic self-organisation in a population of assignment catalysts. Autocatalytic selection is a mechanism whereby matter becomes differentiated in primitive biochemical systems. In the case of coding self-organisation, it corresponds to the creation of symbolic information. Prions are present-day entities whose replication through autocatalysis reflects aspects of biological semiotics less obvious than genetic coding.

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