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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Oct 29;361(1474):1761-76.

The origin of replicators and reproducers.

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Collegium Budapest, Institute for Advanced Study, Hungary.


Replicators are fundamental to the origin of life and evolvability. Their survival depends on the accuracy of replication and the efficiency of growth relative to spontaneous decay. Infrabiological systems are built of two coupled autocatalytic systems, in contrast to minimal living systems that must comprise at least a metabolic subsystem, a hereditary subsystem and a boundary, serving respective functions. Some scenarios prefer to unite all these functions into one primordial system, as illustrated in the lipid world scenario, which is considered as a didactic example in detail. Experimentally produced chemical replicators grow parabolically owing to product inhibition. A selection consequence is survival of everybody. The chromatographized replicator model predicts that such replicators spreading on surfaces can be selected for higher replication rate because double strands are washed away slower than single strands from the surface. Analysis of real ribozymes suggests that the error threshold of replication is less severe by about one order of magnitude than thought previously. Surface-bound dynamics is predicted to play a crucial role also for exponential replicators: unlinked genes belonging to the same genome do not displace each other by competition, and efficient and accurate replicases can spread. The most efficient form of such useful population structure is encapsulation by reproducing vesicles. The stochastic corrector model shows how such a bag of genes can survive, and what the role of chromosome formation and intragenic recombination could be. Prebiotic and early evolution cannot be understood without the models of dynamics.

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