Early Systems Biology and Prebiotic Networks

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Abstract

Systems Biology constitutes tools and approaches aimed at deciphering complex biological entities. It is assumed that such complexity arose gradually, beginning from a few relatively simple molecules at life’s inception, and culminating with the emergence of composite multicellular organisms billions of years later. The main point of the present paper is that very early in the evolution of life, molecular ensembles with high complexity may have arisen, which are best described and analyzed by the tools of Systems Biology. We show that modeled prebiotic mutually catalytic pathways have network attributes similar to those of present-day living cells. This includes network motifs and robustness attributes. We point out that early networks are weighted (graded), but that using a cutoff formalism one may probe their degree distribution and show that it approximate that of a random network. A question is then posed regarding the potential evolutionary mechanisms that may have led to the emergence of scale-free networks in modern cells.