Simulating a Model of Metabolic Closure



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Cornish-Bowden, Athel and Piedrafita, Gabriel and Morán, Federico and Cárdenas, María Luz and Montero, Francisco J (2013) Simulating a Model of Metabolic Closure. Biological Theory, 8 (2). ISSN 1555-5542 (Print) 1555-5550 (Online)

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The goal of synthetic biology is to create artificial organisms. To achieve this it is essential to understand what life is. Metabolism-replacement systems, or
(M, R)-systems, constitute a theory of life developed by
Robert Rosen, characterized in the statement that organisms are closed to efficient causation, which means that
they must themselves produce all the catalysts they need.
This theory overlaps in part with other current theories,
including autopoiesis, the chemoton, and autocatalytic sets,
all of them invoking some idea of closure. A simple model
of an (M, R)-system has been implemented in the computer, and behaves in ways that may shed light on the
requirements for a prebiotic self-organizing system. In
addition to a trivial steady state in which nothing happens,
it can establish a non-trivial steady state in which all
intermediates have finite concentrations, with their rates of degradation balanced by their rates of synthesis. The sys
tem can be regenerated from the set of food components
plus a single intermediate, and maintain itself in that stateindefinitely, despite continuous degradation. At the very low compartment volumes that may have existed in pre-
biotic conditions, for example in cavities in minerals, or in micelles formed by simple amphiphiles, statistical fluctu
ations in the numbers of molecules need to be taken into
account. With the stochastic approach there is no nontrivial steady state in strict mathematical terms, because the system will always collapse to the trivial state after suffi-
cient time. However, the average time before collapse is so
long for volumes greater than 10À19 l (much smaller than
the volume of the order of 10À15 l for a typical bacterial
cell) that for practical purposes the self-maintaining state of non-null concentrations becomes significant, recalling the situation of bistability that is observed in deterministic analysis. In turn, there exists a minimum size below which the self-organizing system cannot maintain itself on chemically relevant time scales. The value of the critical volume depends on the particular concentrations and rate constants assumed, but the principle could apply generally.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Autopoiesis Chemoton Hypercycles Metabolic closure (M, R)-systems Self-organization Simulation
Subjects:Medical sciences > Biology > Molecular biology
Medical sciences > Biology > Biomathematics
ID Code:29340
Deposited On:25 Mar 2015 12:34
Last Modified:26 Mar 2015 09:27

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