skip to main content


Title: Spontaneous emergence of autocatalytic information-coding polymers

Self-replicating systems based on information-coding polymers are of crucial importance in biology. They also recently emerged as a paradigm in material design on nano- and micro-scales. We present a general theoretical and numerical analysis of the problem of spontaneous emergence of autocatalysis for heteropolymers capable of template-assisted ligation driven by cyclic changes in the environment. Our central result is the existence of the first order transition between the regime dominated by free monomers and that with a self-sustaining population of sufficiently long chains. We provide a simple, mathematically tractable model supported by numerical simulations, which predicts the distribution of chain lengths and the onset of autocatalysis in terms of the overall monomer concentration and two fundamental rate constants. Another key result of our study is the emergence of the kinetically limited optimal overlap length between a template and each of its two substrates. The template-assisted ligation allows for heritable transmission of the information encoded in chain sequences thus opening up the possibility of long-term memory and evolvability in such systems.
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. Brookhaven National Lab. (BNL), Upton, NY (United States)
  2. Brookhaven National Lab. (BNL), Upton, NY (United States); Univ. of Illinois, Champaign, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0021-9606; JCPSA6; KC0403020; TRN: US1500647
Grant/Contract Number:
SC0012704; PM-031
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Chemical Physics
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 143; Journal Issue: 4; Journal ID: ISSN 0021-9606
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Research Org:
Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Upton, NY (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
77 NANOSCIENCE AND NANOTECHNOLOGY; copolymers; polymerization; free energy; sequence analysis; number theory
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1228708