Detecting autocatalytic, self-sustaining sets in chemical reaction systems
The ability of systems of molecular reactions to be simultaneously autocatalytic and sustained by some ambient 'food source' of simple molecules may have been an essential step in the origin of life. In this paper we first describe a polynomial-time algorithm that determines whether any given set of molecules, reactions and catalysations contains a subsystem that is both autocatalytic and able to be sustained from a given subset of the molecules. We also describe some combinatorial properties of this algorithm, and show how it can be used to find irreducible auto-catalysing and sustaining subsystems. In the second part of the paper we use the algorithm to investigate random catalytic networks - in particular a model described by Kauffman. Using simulations and some analytic techniques we investigate the rate of catalysis that is required for the emergence of autocatalytic and sustaining subsystems.
- Engineering: Reports