Evolution of autocatalytic sets in computational models of chemical reaction networks
Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 46(2):233-245, 2016.
Several computational models of chemical reaction networks have been presented in the literature in the past, showing the appearance and (potential) evolution of autocatalytic sets. However, the notion of autocatalytic sets has been defined differently in different modeling contexts, each one having some shortcoming or limitation. Here, we review four such models and definitions, and then formally describe and analyze them in the context of a mathematical framework for studying autocatalytic sets known as RAF theory. The main results are that: (1) RAF theory can capture the various previous definitions of autocatalytic sets and is therefore more complete and general, (2) the formal framework can be used to efficiently detect and analyze autocatalytic sets in all of these different computational models, (3) autocatalytic (RAF) sets are indeed likely to appear and evolve in such models, and (4) this could have important implications for a possible metabolism-first scenario for the origin of life.