CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Parasitic Behavior in Competing Chemically Fueled Reaction Cycles

P. Schwarz 2021 Chemical Science


Patrick S. Schwarz, Sudarshana Laha, Jacqueline Janssen, Tabea Huss, Job Boekhoven, and Christoph A. Weber

Chemical Science


Non-equilibrium, fuel-driven reaction cycles serve as model systems of the intricate reaction networks of life. Rich and dynamic behavior is observed when reaction cycles regulate assembly processes, such as phase separation. However, it remains unclear how the interplay between multiple reaction cycles affects the success of emergent assemblies. To tackle this question, we created a library of molecules that compete for a common fuel that transiently activates products. Often, the competition for fuel implies that a competitor decreases the lifetime of these products. However, in cases where the transient competitor product can phase-separate, such a competitor can increase the survival time of one product. Moreover, in the presence of oscillatory fueling, the same mechanism reduces variations in the product concentration while the concentration variations of the competitor product are enhanced. Like a parasite, the product benefits from the protection of the host against deactivation and increases its robustness against fuel variations at the expense of the robustness of the host. Such a parasitic behavior in multiple fuel-driven reaction cycles represents a lifelike trait, paving the way for the bottom-up design of synthetic life.