Constraint Closure Drove Major Transitions in the Origins of Life.

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Entropy (Basel)


washington; seattle; isb


Life is an epiphenomenon for which origins are of tremendous interest to explain. We provide a framework for doing so based on the thermodynamic concept of work cycles. These cycles can create their own closure events, and thereby provide a mechanism for engendering novelty. We note that three significant such events led to life as we know it on Earth: (1) the advent of collective autocatalytic sets (CASs) of small molecules; (2) the advent of CASs of reproducing informational polymers; and (3) the advent of CASs of polymerase replicases. Each step could occur only when the boundary conditions of the system fostered constraints that fundamentally changed the phase space. With the realization that these successive events are required for innovative forms of life, we may now be able to focus more clearly on the question of life's abundance in the universe.


Institute for Systems Biology