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Life: The Physical Underpinnings of Replication

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Astrochemistry and Astrobiology

Part of the book series: Physical Chemistry in Action ((PCIA))

Abstract

Replication is a fundamental process that is critical to life as we know it. While replication today is carried out by complex biochemical machineries that have been evolving for billions of years, it must have originated with relatively small molecules in simple systems. Here we explore this concept, focusing on the physicochemical characteristics and prebiotic potential of two classes of biological macromolecules: nucleic acids and lipids. We discuss the informational and catalytic capabilities of DNA and RNA, the thermodynamic limits of information transfer, the structure and function of lipid membranes, and the formation and maintenance of primitive ‘protocells’.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    One important mode of altruism, reciprocal altruism (e.g., in the Prisoner’s dilemma), can evolve under certain conditions, such as repeated interactions. However, the first replicases were unlikely to have a mechanism to decide whether or not to cooperate, so reciprocal altruism will not be considered further here.

  2. 2.

    It actually takes a pair of replicases to start an autocatalytic cycle of replication. The second replicase might have been encapsulated in the same vesicle by chance, or may have been generated via templated non-enzymatic polymerization.

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Correspondence to Irene Chen .

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Turk-MacLeod, R., Gerland, U., Chen, I. (2013). Life: The Physical Underpinnings of Replication. In: Smith, I., Cockell, C., Leach, S. (eds) Astrochemistry and Astrobiology. Physical Chemistry in Action. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-31730-9_9

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