Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 65, Issue 6, pp 668–686 | Cite as

The Role of Complex Formation and Deleterious Mutations for the Stability of RNA-Like Replicator Systems

  • Nobuto TakeuchiEmail author
  • Paulien Hogeweg


In the RNA world hypothesis, RNA(-like) self-replicators are suggested as the central player of prebiotic evolution. However, there is a serious problem in the evolution of complexity in such replicators, i.e., the problem of parasites. Parasites, which are replicated by catalytic replicators (catalysts), but do not replicate the others, can destroy a whole replicator system by exploitation. Recently, a theoretical study underlined complex formation between replicators—an often neglected but realistic process—as a stabilizing factor in a replicator system by demonstrating that complex formation can shift the viable range of diffusion intensity to higher values. In the current study, we extend the previous study of complex formation. Firstly, by investigating a well-mixed replicator system, we establish that complex formation gives parasites an implicit advantage over catalysts, which makes the system significantly more vulnerable to parasites. Secondly, by investigating a spatially extended replicator system, we show that the formation of traveling wave patterns plays a crucial role in the stability of the system against parasites, and that because of this the effect of complex formation is not straightforward; i.e., whether complex formation stabilizes or destabilizes the spatial system is a complex function of other parameters. We give a detailed analysis of the spatial system by considering the pattern dynamics of waves. Furthermore, we investigate the effect of deleterious mutations. Surprisingly, high mutation rates can weaken the exploitation of the catalyst by the parasite.


Prebiotic evolution RNA world Complex formation Spatially extended replicator dynamics Mesoscale pattern Traveling wave Stochastic reaction diffusion model 



We express our gratitude to the associate editor Dr. N. Lehman and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms on our manuscript. The research was supported by NWO exact sciences 612.060.522.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Theoretical Biology/Bioinformatics GroupUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Theoretische Biologie/BioinformaticaUtrechtThe Netherlands

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