Survival of Self-Replicating Molecules Under Transient Compartmentalization With Natural Selection

Life (Basel). 2019 Oct 3;9(4):78. doi: 10.3390/life9040078.


The problem of the emergence and survival of self-replicating molecules in origin-of-life scenarios is plagued by the error catastrophe, which is usually escaped by considering effects of compartmentalization, as in the stochastic corrector model. By addressing the problem in a simple system composed of a self-replicating molecule (a replicase) and a parasite molecule that needs the replicase for copying itself, we show that transient (rather than permanent) compartmentalization is sufficient to the task. We also exhibit a regime in which the concentrations of the two kinds of molecules undergo sustained oscillations. Our model should be relevant not only for origin-of-life scenarios but also for describing directed evolution experiments, which increasingly rely on transient compartmentalization with pooling and natural selection.

Keywords: error catastrophe; origin of life; parasites.