Competition, cooperation, and mutation: improving a synthetic replicator by light irradiation

Science. 1992 Feb 14;255(5046):848-50. doi: 10.1126/science.255.5046.848.


Replication and mutation are necessary elements of evolution, and some properties of self-replicating molecules (replicators) can be explored with synthetic structures. Selection and evolution at the molecular level require systems capable of competition and inheritable change. These phenomena have now been observed with synthetic molecules. Two such molecules were prepared having sufficient structural similarity that they catalyzed each other's formation as well as their own. One of the replicators bears a photochemically active function that is cleaved on irradiation. The resulting species is more effective at replication than the original and rapidly takes over the system's resources.