From Quasispecies to Quasispaces: Coding and Cooperation in Chemical and Electronic Systems

Eur Biophys J. 2018 May;47(4):459-478. doi: 10.1007/s00249-018-1284-4. Epub 2018 Mar 2.


This contribution addresses the physical roles of spatial structures, either externally imposed or generated through self-assembly, either passive or active, on the physical chemistry of evolution. Starting with simple diffusion in closed capillaries, a one-dimensional space, it covers eight aspects of experimental and theoretical research into the interaction of evolution with spatial structures: in various dimensions, including hitherto unexplored ones, spanning from externally defined physical spaces to actively tailored spaces, assembled by the evolving components themselves. As such, it contains some original research by the author as well as tracing how other insights grew over three decades out of the mentorship of Manfred Eigen in the 1980s. Much of the early interest in spatial structures centres on its role in stabilizing higher order cooperative structures involving the coevolution of different molecules, as the genetic coding system exemplifies. Modern nanotechnology enables the design and construction of genetically encoded variants of smart components that can actively control both the proliferation of molecules and the structuring of space. A key role for this article is to show the continuity in this line of enquiry, beginning with quasispecies and projecting to autonomous microparticles with electronic genomes able to form programmable quasispaces.

Keywords: Evolution; Lablets; Microfluidics; Reaction diffusion; Synthetic biology; cooperation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electrons*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Quasispecies*