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2002 Annual Science Report

Scripps Research Institute Reporting  |  JUL 2001 – JUN 2002

Rebek - Self-Reproducing Molecular Systems and Darwinian Chemistry

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

We have devised a synthetic system in which a unique form of compartmentalization leads to nonlinear, autocatalytic behavior. Autocatalysis and chemical amplification are characteristic properties of living systems, and they give rise to behaviors such as increased sensitivity, responsiveness, and self-replication. The compartment is a reversibly formed capsule in which a reagent is sequestered. Reaction products displace the reagent from the capsule into solution and the reaction rate is accelerated. The resulting self-regulation is sensitive to the highly selective molecular recognition properties of the capsule. The autocatalytic behavior is an emergent property of the system as a whole, rather than a property of specific molecules within the system.

Nature has long recognized the inherent benefits of compartmentalization, and it is widely believed to be an important, if not essential, characteristic of living systems.

    Julius Rebek
    Project Investigator

    Pablo Ballester

    Stephen Craig

    Dmitry Rudkevich

    Jian Chen

    Shirley Lin

    Chong Choi
    Research Staff

    Liam Palmer
    Doctoral Student

    Objective 2.0
    Develop and test plausible pathways by which ancient counterparts of membrane systems, proteins and nucleic acids were synthesized from simpler precursors and assembled into protocells.

    Objective 3.0
    Replicating, catalytic systems capable of evolution, and construct laboratory models of metabolism in primitive living systems.