Encoding multiple reactivity modes within a single synthetic replicator

Craig C. Robertson, Tamara Kosikova, Douglas Philp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Establishing instructable and self-sustaining replication networks in pools of chemical reagents is a key challenge in systems chemistry. Self-replicating templates are formed from two constituent components with complementary recognition and reactive sites via a slow bimolecular pathway and a fast template-directed pathway. Here, we re-engineer one of the components of a synthetic replicator to encode an additional recognition function, permitting the assembly of a binary complex between the components that mediates replicator formation through a template-independent pathway, which achieves maximum rate acceleration at early time points in the replication process. The complementarity between recognition sites creates a key conformational equilibrium between the catalytically inert product, formed via the template-independent pathway, and the catalytically active replicator that mediates the template-directed pathway. Consequently, the rapid formation of the catalytically inert isomer “kickstarts” replication through the template-directed pathway. Through kinetic analyses, we demonstrate that the presence of the two recognition-mediated reactivity modes results in enhanced template formation in comparison to systems capable of exploiting only a single recognition-mediated pathway. Finally, kinetic simulations reveal that the conformational equilibrium and both the relative and absolute efficiencies of the recognition-mediated pathways affect the extent to which self-replicating systems can benefit from this additional template-independent reactivity mode. These results allow us to formulate the rules that govern the coupling of replication processes to alternative recognition-mediated reactivity modes. The interplay between template-directed and template-independent pathways for replicator formation has significant relevance to ongoing efforts to design instructable and adaptable replicator networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11139–11152
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number25
Early online date15 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2020


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