Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 319–324 | Cite as

Molecular Crowding and Early Evolution

  • Ranajay Saha
  • Andrew Pohorille
  • Irene A. ChenEmail author


The environment of protocells might have been crowded with small molecules and functional and non-specific polymers. In addition to altering conformational equilibria, affecting reaction rates and changing the structure and activity of water, crowding might have enhanced the capabilities of protocells for evolutionary innovation through the creation of extended neutral networks in the fitness landscape.


Crowding Excluded volume effect Protocell Vesicle Evolution Fitness landscape RNA Neutral network Evolutionary optimization 



This work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Simons Foundation (grant no. 290356 to IAC), the Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology Fund (grant no. RFP-12-05), the Searle Scholars Program, and the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies through grant W911NF-09-0001 from the U.S. Army Research Office. The content of the information does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ranajay Saha
    • 1
  • Andrew Pohorille
    • 2
  • Irene A. Chen
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Exobiology BranchNASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA
  3. 3.Program in Biomolecular Sciences and EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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