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Published September 3, 2004 | Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

The Emergence of Competition Between Model Protocells


The transition from independent molecular entities to cellular structures with integrated behaviors was a crucial aspect of the origin of life. We show that simple physical principles can mediate a coordinated interaction between genome and compartment boundary, independent of any genomic functions beyond self-replication. RNA, encapsulated in fatty acid vesicles, exerts an osmotic pressure on the vesicle membrane that drives the uptake of additional membrane components, leading to membrane growth at the expense of relaxed vesicles, which shrink. Thus, more efficient RNA replication could cause faster cell growth, leading to the emergence of Darwinian evolution at the cellular level.

Additional Information

© 2004 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Received 26 May 2004; accepted 26 July 2004. We are grateful to S. M. Fujikawa, M. M. Hanczyc, P.-A. Monnard, J. Carothers, and A. Luptak for helpful discussions. J.W.S. is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. I.A.C. was supported by the NIH Medical Scientist Training Program (T32- GM07753) and an NIH Molecular Biophysics Training Grant (T32-GM08313). This work was supported in part by a grant from the NASA Exobiology Program (EXB02-0031-0018).

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