Theoretical and Computer Modeling of Evolution of Autocatalytic Systems in a Flow Reactor

  • S.I. Bartsev
  • V.V. Mezhevikin


A chemoautotrophic concept of the initial stages of chemical prebiotic evolution, which eliminates key difficulties in the problem of life origin and permits experimental tests, is proposed. The concept leads to an important statement—organisms emerging (out of the Earth and/or inside an experimental reactor) have to be based on biochemical bases, different from those occurring on our planet. According to the concept the predecessor of living beings has to be sufficiently simple to provide non-zero probability of self-assembly during a short (in geological or cosmic scale) time. In addition the predecessor has to be capable of autocatalysis, and further complexification (i.e., evolution). A theoretical model of a multivariate oligomeric autocatalyst coupled with a phase-separated particle is presented. This model, possessing non-genomic inheritance, describes a version of the ‘metabolism first’ approach to life origin. Conducted computer simulation shows the origin of an autocatalytic oligomeric phase-separated system to be possible at reasonable values of the kinetic parameters of involved chemical reactions in a small-scale flow reactor.


Flow Reactor Chemical Evolution Life Origin Linear Oligomer Autocatalytic System 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Altstein, A.D. (1987) The origin of the genetic system: the progene hypothesis. Mol. Biol. 21(2), 309–322 (in Russian).Google Scholar
  2. Bartsev, S.I. (2004) Essence of life and multiformity of its realization: expected signatures of life. Adv. Space Res. 33(8), 1313–1317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartsev, S.I. and Mezhevikin, V.V. (2005) Pre-biotic stage of life origin under non-photosynthetic conditions. Adv. Space Res. 35(9), 1643–1647.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bartsev, S.I. and Mezhevikin, V.V. (2006) On the theoretical and experimental modeling of initial states of metabolism formation in prebiotic systems. Paleontol. J. 40(4), S536–S542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartsev, S.I., Mezhevikin, V.V. and Okhonin, V.A. (2001) Life as a set of matter transformation cycles: ecological attributes of life. Adv. Space Res. 28(4), 607–612.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braun, D. and A. Libchaber (2004) Thermal force approach to molecular evolution: Physical Biology 1, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carny, O. and Gazit, E. (2005) A model for the role of short self-assembled peptides in the very early stages of the origin of life. FASEB J. 19, 1051–1055.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cody, G.D. (2004) Transition metal sulfides and the origin of metabolism. Ann. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 32, 569–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cody, G.D., Bactor, N.Z., Filley, T.R., Hazen, R.M., Scott, J.H., Sharma, A., Yoder, H.S., Jr. (2000) Primordial carbonylated iron-sulfur components and the synthesis of pyruvate. Science 289(5483), 1337–1340.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feigin, A.M. (1987) On a possibility of origin of nucleic acids on the basis of polymers with a simpler structure. J. Evol. Biochem. Physiol. 23(4), 417–422.Google Scholar
  11. Feistel, R., Romanovsky, Yu.M. and Vasil’ev, V.A. (1980) Evolution of Eigen’s hyper-cycle taking place in coacervate. Biophysics 25(5), 882–887 (in Russian).Google Scholar
  12. Ferris, J.P., Hill, A.R., Jr., Liu, R. and Orgel, L.E. (1996) Synthesis of long prebiotic oligomers on mineral surfaces. Nature 381, 59–61.Google Scholar
  13. Fontana, W. and Shuster, P. (1998) Shaping space: the possible and the attainable in RNA genotype–phenotype mapping. J. Theor. Biol. 194, 491–515.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fox, S.W. and Dose, K. (1977) Molecular Evolution and the Origin of Life. Marcel Dekker, New York., p. 370.Google Scholar
  15. Gilbert, W. (1986) The RNA world. Nature 319, 618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gleiser, M. and Thorarinson, J. (2006) Prebiotic homochirality as a critical phenomenon. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 36, 501–505.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goldberg, S.I. (2007) Enantiomeric enrichment on the prebiotic earth. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 37, 55–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Klotz, I.M., Royer, G.P. and Scarpa, I.S. (1971) Synthetic derivatives of polyethyleneimine with enzyme-like catalytic activity (synzymes). PNAS 68(2), 263–264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Koonin, E.V. and W. Martin, (2005) On the origin of genomes and cells within inorganic compartments. Trends Genet. 21, 647–654.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Laszlo, P. (1999) Catalysis of organic reactions by inorganic solids. Pure Appl. Chem. 62(10), 2027–2030.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martin, W and Russell, M.J. (2002) On origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London, B. 358, 27–85.Google Scholar
  22. Nelson, K.E., Levy, M. and Miller, S.L. (2000) Peptide nucleic acids rather than RNA may have been the first genetic molecule. PNAS 97, 3868–3871.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Oba, T., Fukushima, J, Maruyama, M., Iwamoto, R. and Ikehara, K. (2005) Catalytic activities of [GADV]-peptides. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 34, 447–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pohorille, A. and Deamer, D. (2001) Artificial cells: prospects for biotechnology. Trends Biotechnol. 20, 123–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pross, A. (2004) Causation and the origin of Life. Metabolism or replication first? Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 34, 307–321.Google Scholar
  26. Rasi, S., Mavelli, F. and Luisi, P.L. (2004) Matrix effect in oleate micelles–vesicles transformation. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 34, 215–224.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rasmussen, S., Chen, L., Stadler, B.M.R. and Stadler, P.F. (2002) Proto-organism kinetics: evolutionary dynamics of lipid aggregates with genes and metabolism. Santa Fe Institute, Working Paper, No. 02-10-054.Google Scholar
  28. Ruckenstein, E. and Nagarajan, R. (1976) On critical concentrations in micellar solutions. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 57(2), 388–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schuster, P. (2000) Molecular insight into the evolution of phenotypes. Santa Fe Institute, Working Paper No. 00-02-013.Google Scholar
  30. Segre, D. and Lancet, D. (2000) Composing life. EMBO Reports 1(3), 217–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Segre, D., Lancet, D., Kedem, O. and Pilpel, Y. (1998) Graded autocatalysis replication domain (GARD): kinetic analysis of self-replication in mutually catalytic sets. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 28, 501–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Segre, D., Ben-Eli, D., Deamer, D.W. and Lancet, D. (2001) The lipid world. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 31, 119–145.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • S.I. Bartsev
    • 1
  • V.V. Mezhevikin
  1. 1.Theoretical Biophysics DepartmentInstitute of Biophysics SB RASUSA

Personalised recommendations