Mechanosensitive Self-Replication Driven by Self-Organization

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Science  19 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5972, pp. 1502-1506
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182767

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Self-replicating molecules are likely to have played an important role in the origin of life, and a small number of fully synthetic self-replicators have already been described. Yet it remains an open question which factors most effectively bias the replication toward the far-from-equilibrium distributions characterizing even simple organisms. We report here two self-replicating peptide-derived macrocycles that emerge from a small dynamic combinatorial library and compete for a common feedstock. Replication is driven by nanostructure formation, resulting from the assembly of the peptides into fibers held together by β sheets. Which of the two replicators becomes dominant is influenced by whether the sample is shaken or stirred. These results establish that mechanical forces can act as a selection pressure in the competition between replicators and can determine the outcome of a covalent synthesis.

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