CHAPTER 13: Toward Evolution in Chemical Reaction Networks
Published:29 Jun 2022
Chemical reaction networks are central to abiogenesis, from the synthesis of chemical building blocks to the appearance of genetic systems and protocells. Evolutionary mechanisms provide means by which complexity and functionality can build up during the origin of life. However, building a physical-chemical system that can evolve has not yet been achieved. In this chapter, we review experimental efforts and corresponding theories toward building and discovering evolutionary properties in chemical reaction networks. Experimental systems range from small molecules to RNA, DNA, and peptides. Theory indicates that evolution could have started without mechanisms based on genetic polymers. Research on genetic polymers indicates that template-based replication may have been preceded by autocatalytic networks. A systems level approach can reveal generic principles for achieving and assembling evolutionary properties in physical-chemical systems and may ultimately indicate a multiplicity of gradual paths for the emergence of evolution.