Prebiotic RNA network formation: A taxonomy of molecular cooperation

Cole Mathis, Sanjay N. Ramprasad, Sara Walker, Niles Lehman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Cooperation is essential for evolution of biological complexity. Recent work has shown game theoretic arguments, commonly used to model biological cooperation, can also illuminate the dynamics of chemical systems. Here we investigate the types of cooperation possible in a real RNA system based on the Azoarcus ribozyme, by constructing a taxonomy of possible cooperative groups. We construct a computational model of this system to investigate the features of the real system promoting cooperation. We find triplet interactions among genotypes are intrinsically biased towards cooperation due to the particular distribution of catalytic rate constants measured empirically in the real system. For other distributions cooperation is less favored. We discuss implications for understanding cooperation as a driver of complexification in the origin of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Cooperation
  • Origin of life
  • Prebiotic chemistry
  • RNA
  • Ribozymes
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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