A primordial environment that hosted complex pre- or proto-biochemical activity would have been subject to random fluctuations. A relevant question is then: What might be the optimum variance of such fluctuations, such that net progress could be made towards a living system? Since lipid-based membrane encapsulation was undoubtedly a key step in chemical evolution, we used a peptide-micelle system in simulated experiments where simple micelles and peptide-stabilized micelles compete for the same amphiphilic lipid substrate. As cyclic thermal driver and energy source we used a thermochemical redox oscillator, to which the micelle reactions are coupled thermally through the activation energies. The long-time series averages taken for increasing values of the fluctuation variance show two distinct minima for simple micelles, but are smoothly increasing for complex micelles. This result suggests that the fluctuation variance is an important parameter in developing and perpetuating complexity. We hypothesize that such an environment may be self-selecting for a complex, evolving chemical system to outcompete simple or parasitic molecular structures.
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This research was partially funded by Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT0991007 (R.B.).
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Ball, R., Brindley, J. Does Stochasticity Favour Complexity in a Prebiotic Peptide-Micelle System?. Orig Life Evol Biosph (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11084-021-09614-3
- Prebiotic complexity
- Thermochemical oscillator
- Arrhenius rates