Emergence in complex systems based on synthetic replicators
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Biopolymers with defined recognition pattern were used to generate the first artificial replicating systems. Stripping down these systems to their most fundamental properties allowed to move away from the biological origins to construct replicators consisting of simple organic molecules. These systems have proven highly instructive for the in-depth understanding of the main requirements for the targeted development of efficient replicators. With this knowledge at hand, it is now possible to combine several replicators for the formation of molecular networks, and to use the unique properties of replication to manipulate these networks by external stimuli. In the thesis presented, the investigation of a family of self-replicators culminated in the successful construction of several examples of a multicyclic system in which four building blocks are able to react via two autocatalytic and two reciprocal pathways. Owing to the connectivity in this reaction system, it was demonstrated that its outcome can be influenced in a programmable manner by the addition of informational template. Some of the responses can be deduced directly from the functioning of the individual systems, others however are to be classified as emergent properties of the network. Upon elucidation of the multicyclic systems, it became apparent that working in closed reaction systems puts intrinsic boundaries on the possibility to bias the outcome of the reaction network. This limitation prevented the extinction of the inferior type of replicators even under highly unfavourable conditions and instead always led to coexistence for all species.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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