The growth of a population of protocells requires that the two key processes of replication of the protogenetic material and reproduction of the whole protocell take place at the same rate. While in many ODE-based models such synchronization spontaneously develops, this does not happen in the important case of quadratic growth terms. Here we show that spontaneous synchronization can be recovered (i) by requiring that the transmembrane diffusion of precursors takes place at a finite rate, or (ii) by introducing a finite lifetime of the molecular complexes. We then consider reaction networks that grow by the addition of newly synthesized chemicals in a binary polymer model, and analyze their behaviors in growing and dividing protocells, thereby confirming the importance of (i) and (ii) for synchronization. We describe some interesting phenomena (like long-term oscillations of duplication times) and show that the presence of food-generated autocatalytic cycles is not sufficient to guarantee synchronization: in the case of cycles with a complex structure, it is often observed that only some subcycles survive and synchronize, while others die out. This shows the importance of truly dynamic models that can uncover effects that cannot be detected by static graph theoretical analyses.
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