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Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2003 Dec;33(6):575-87.

A toy model for the generation of homochirality during polymerization.

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Physics Department, University of Oxford, Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford, UK.


This article examines a toy model of polymerization which though artificial and unphysical has some interesting chiral features. Two key elements, enantiomeric cross inhibition and chiral feedback, are shown to lead to bifurcation, so that the end product can become homo-chiral. We find that the bifurcation is driven by the cross-inhibition but is not strongly dependant on its strength, which for perfect feedback fidelity mainly determines the time scale. We also find that bifurcation with a high degree of chiral polarization remains even when the fidelity of the chiral feedback is substantially less than unity. For small values of the feedback fidelity the polarization drops below unity and at a critical value falls sharply to zero in a 'phase transition'. The value at which this happens depends on the cross-inhibition in a complex way. By comparing the behaviour of polymers differing only in their final length, N, we find that the bifurcation process is enhanced as N increases. The symmetry breaking which we find is clearly a particular manifestation of general bifurcation theory. In addition it has the specific interest that, at least in our model, long homochiral polymers are possible even in the presence of substantial enantiomeric cross-inhibition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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