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Life, Volume 7, Issue 4 (December 2017)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Prebiotic RNA Network Formation: A Taxonomy of Molecular Cooperation
Life 2017, 7(4), 38; doi:10.3390/life7040038 (registering DOI)
Received: 15 September 2017 / Revised: 6 October 2017 / Accepted: 11 October 2017 / Published: 16 October 2017
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Abstract
Cooperation is essential for evolution of biological complexity. Recent work has shown game theoretic arguments, commonly used to model biological cooperation, can also illuminate the dynamics of chemical systems. Here we investigate the types of cooperation possible in a real RNA system based
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Cooperation is essential for evolution of biological complexity. Recent work has shown game theoretic arguments, commonly used to model biological cooperation, can also illuminate the dynamics of chemical systems. Here we investigate the types of cooperation possible in a real RNA system based on the Azoarcus ribozyme, by constructing a taxonomy of possible cooperative groups. We construct a computational model of this system to investigate the features of the real system promoting cooperation. We find triplet interactions among genotypes are intrinsically biased towards cooperation due to the particular distribution of catalytic rate constants measured empirically in the real system. For other distributions cooperation is less favored. We discuss implications for understanding cooperation as a driver of complexification in the origin of life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The RNA World and the Origin of Life)
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Review

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Open AccessReview Hydrothermal Microflow Technology as a Research Tool for Origin-of-Life Studies in Extreme Earth Environments
Life 2017, 7(4), 37; doi:10.3390/life7040037
Received: 31 August 2017 / Revised: 25 September 2017 / Accepted: 30 September 2017 / Published: 2 October 2017
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Abstract
Although studies about the origin of life are a frontier in science and a number of effective approaches have been developed, drawbacks still exist. Examples include: (1) simulation of chemical evolution experiments (which were demonstrated for the first time by Stanley Miller); (2)
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Although studies about the origin of life are a frontier in science and a number of effective approaches have been developed, drawbacks still exist. Examples include: (1) simulation of chemical evolution experiments (which were demonstrated for the first time by Stanley Miller); (2) approaches tracing back the most primitive life-like systems (on the basis of investigations of present organisms); and (3) constructive approaches for making life-like systems (on the basis of molecular biology), such as in vitro construction of the RNA world. Naturally, simulation experiments of chemical evolution under plausible ancient Earth environments have been recognized as a potentially fruitful approach. Nevertheless, simulation experiments seem not to be sufficient for identifying the scenario from molecules to life. This is because primitive Earth environments are still not clearly defined and a number of possibilities should be taken into account. In addition, such environments frequently comprise extreme conditions when compared to the environments of present organisms. Therefore, we need to realize the importance of accurate and convenient experimental approaches that use practical research tools, which are resistant to high temperature and pressure, to facilitate chemical evolution studies. This review summarizes improvements made in such experimental approaches over the last two decades, focusing primarily on our hydrothermal microflow reactor technology. Microflow reactor systems are a powerful tool for performing simulation experiments in diverse simulated hydrothermal Earth conditions in order to measure the kinetics of formation and degradation and the interactions of biopolymers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydrothermal Vents or Hydrothermal Fields: Challenging Paradigms)
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