The Basic Reproductive Ratio of Life

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The Basic Reproductive Ratio of Life

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Title: The Basic Reproductive Ratio of Life
Author: Manapat, Michael L.; Chen, Irene Ann; Nowak, Martin A.

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Citation: Manapat Michael L., Irene A. Chen, Martin A. Nowak. 2010. The basic reproductive ratio of life. Journal of Theoretical Biology 263(3): 317-327.
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Abstract: Template-directed polymerization of nucleotides is believed to be a pathway for the replication of genetic material in the earliest cells. We assume that activated monomers are produced by prebiotic chemistry. These monomers can undergo spontaneous polymerization, a system that we call “prelife.” Adding template-directed polymerization changes the equilibrium structure of prelife if the rate constants meet certain criteria. In particular, if the basic reproductive ratio of sequences of a certain length exceeds one, then those sequences can attain high abundance. Furthermore, if many sequences replicate, then the longest sequences can reach high abundance even if the basic reproductive ratios of all sequences are less than one. We call this phenomenon “subcritical life.” Subcritical life suggests that sequences long enough to be ribozymes can become abundant even if replication is relatively inefficient. Our work on the evolution of replication has interesting parallels to infection dynamics. Life (replication) can be seen as an infection of prelife.
Published Version: doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.12.020
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