Paper abstract

On RAF sets and autocatalytic cycles in random reaction networks

Alessandro Filisetti, Marco Villani, Chiara Damiani, Alex Graudenzi, Andrea Roli, Wim Hordijk and Roberto Serra

Communications in Computer and Information Science, 445:113-126, 2014.

The emergence of autocatalytic sets of molecules seems to have played an important role in the origin of life context. Although the possibility to reproduce this emergence in laboratory has received considerable attention, this is still far from being achieved. In order to unravel some key properties enabling the emergence of structures potentially able to sustain their own existence and growth, in this work we investigate the probability to observe them in ensembles of random catalytic reaction networks characterized by different structural properties.
From the point of view of network topology, an autocatalytic set have been defined either in term of strongly connected components (SCCs) or as reflexively autocatalytic and food-generated sets (RAFs).
We observe that the average level of catalysis differently affects the probability to observe a SCC or a RAF, highlighting the existence of a region where the former can be observed, whereas the latter cannot. This parameter also affects the composition of the RAF, which can be further characterized into linear structures, autocatalysis or SCCs.
Interestingly, we show that the different network topology (uniform as opposed to power-law catalysis systems) does not have a significantly divergent impact on SCCs and RAFs appearance, whereas the proportion between cleavages and condensations seems instead to play a role. A major factor that limits the probability of RAF appearance and that may explain some of the difficulties encountered in laboratory seems to be the presence of molecules which can accumulate without being substrate or catalyst of any reaction.