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, 111 (1), 1-10

Self-organization and Entropy Reduction in a Living Cell


Self-organization and Entropy Reduction in a Living Cell

Paul C W Davies et al. Biosystems.


In this paper we discuss the entropy and information aspects of a living cell. Particular attention is paid to the information gain on assembling and maintaining a living state. Numerical estimates of the information and entropy reduction are given and discussed in the context of the cell's metabolic activity. We discuss a solution to an apparent paradox that there is less information content in DNA than in the proteins that are assembled based on the genetic code encrypted in DNA. When energy input required for protein synthesis is accounted for, the paradox is clearly resolved. Finally, differences between biological information and instruction are discussed.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The genetic code.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Processing of genetic information. Classical dogma: the information is carried by DNA, which undergoes replication during the process of reproduction and transcription into RNA when it is to be expressed; gene expression consists in translation of information written on RNA onto a particular protein primary structure. The polypeptide consisting of specific amino acids is folded into the protein’s tertiary structure. The left panel represents a cell, and depicts the information flow from DNA, through mRNA, to translation at a ribosome. The right panel represents the transition between the unfolded and folded states of a protein.

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