Full analysis of small hypercycles with short-circuits in prebiotic evolution

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Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, ISSN: 0167-2789, Vol: 347, Page: 90-108

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Josep Sardanyés; J. Tomás Lázaro; Antoni Guillamon; Ernest Fontich
Elsevier BV
Physics and Astronomy
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article description
It is known that hypercycles are sensitive to the so-called parasites and short-circuits. While the impact of parasites has been widely investigated for well-mixed and spatial hypercycles, the effect of short-circuits in hypercycles remains poorly understood. In this article we analyze the mean field and spatial dynamics of two small, asymmetric hypercycles with short-circuits. Specifically, we analyze a two-member hypercycle where one of the species contains an auto-catalytic loop, as the simplest hypercycle with a short-circuit. Then, we extend this system by adding another species that closes a three-member hypercycle while keeping the auto-catalytic short-circuit and the two-member cycle. The mean field model allows us to discard the presence of stable or unstable periodic orbits for both systems. We characterize the bifurcations and transitions involved in the dominance of the short-circuits i.e., in the reduction of the hypercycles’ size. The spatial simulations reveal a random-like and mixed distribution of the replicators in the all-species coexistence, ruling out the presence of large-scale spatial patterns such as spirals or spots typical of larger, oscillating hypercycles. A Monte Carlo sampling of the parameter space for the well-mixed and the spatial models reveals that the probability of finding stable hypercycles with short-circuits drastically diminishes from the two-member to the three-member system, especially at growing degradation rates of the replicators. These findings pose a big constraint in the increase of hypercycle’s size and complexity under the presence of inner cycles, suggesting the importance of a rapid growth of hypercycles able to generate spatial structures (e.g., rotating spirals) prior to the emergence of inner cycles. Our results can also be useful for the future design and implementation of synthetic cooperative systems containing catalytic short-circuits.