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Entropy 2014, 16(5), 2488-2511; doi:10.3390/e16052488

Recent Theoretical Approaches to Minimal Artificial Cells

Chemistry Department, University Aldo Moro, Via Orabona 4–70125 Bari, Italy
Science Department, Roma Tre University, Viale G. Marconi 446–00146 Rome, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 January 2014 / Revised: 27 February 2014 / Accepted: 22 April 2014 / Published: 8 May 2014
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Minimal artificial cells (MACs) are self-assembled chemical systems able to mimic the behavior of living cells at a minimal level, i.e. to exhibit self-maintenance, self-reproduction and the capability of evolution. The bottom-up approach to the construction of MACs is mainly based on the encapsulation of chemical reacting systems inside lipid vesicles, i.e. chemical systems enclosed (compartmentalized) by a double-layered lipid membrane. Several researchers are currently interested in synthesizing such simple cellular models for biotechnological purposes or for investigating origin of life scenarios. Within this context, the properties of lipid vesicles (e.g., their stability, permeability, growth dynamics, potential to host reactions or undergo division processes…) play a central role, in combination with the dynamics of the encapsulated chemical or biochemical networks. Thus, from a theoretical standpoint, it is very important to develop kinetic equations in order to explore first—and specify later—the conditions that allow the robust implementation of these complex chemically reacting systems, as well as their controlled reproduction. Due to being compartmentalized in small volumes, the population of reacting molecules can be very low in terms of the number of molecules and therefore their behavior becomes highly affected by stochastic effects both in the time course of reactions and in occupancy distribution among the vesicle population. In this short review we report our mathematical approaches to model artificial cell systems in this complex scenario by giving a summary of three recent simulations studies on the topic of primitive cell (protocell) systems.
Keywords: autopoiesis; lipid vesicles; self-reproduction; protocells; stochastic simulations; osmotic synchronization autopoiesis; lipid vesicles; self-reproduction; protocells; stochastic simulations; osmotic synchronization
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Mavelli, F.; Altamura, E.; Cassidei, L.; Stano, P. Recent Theoretical Approaches to Minimal Artificial Cells. Entropy 2014, 16, 2488-2511.

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