Light-fuelled primitive replication and selection in evolvable biomimetic chemical networks

23 August 2022, Version 4
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The concept of chemically evolvable replicators is central to abiogenesis. Evolvability requires three essential components: energy harvesting mechanisms for non-equilibrium dissipation, kinetically asymmetric decomposition pathways, and transfer of structural information in the autocatalytic cycles. We observed a UVA light-fuelled chemical network displaying sequence-dependent replication and replicator decomposition. The system was constructed with primitive peptidic foldamer components. The photocatalytic formation-recombination cycle of thiyl radicals was coupled with the molecular recognition steps in the replication cycles. Thiyl radical-mediated chain reaction was responsible for the replicator death mechanism. The competing and kinetically asymmetric replication and decomposition processes led to light intensity-dependent selection far from equilibrium. Here we show that this system can dynamically adapt to the level of energy influx and seeding. The results highlight the feasibility of the complex phenomenon of chemical evolvability with primitive building blocks and simple chemical reactions.


dissipative adaptation
chemical evolution
systems chemistry
dissipative assembly
non-equilibrium thermodynamics


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.