Modelling Lipid Competition Dynamics in Heterogeneous Protocell Populations
Shirt-Ediss, Benjamin John
Ruiz Mirazo, Pedro
Solé, Ricard V.
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Scientific Reports 4 : (2014) // Article ID 5675
Recent experimental work in the field of synthetic protocell biology has shown that prebiotic vesicles are able to 'steal' lipids from each other. This phenomenon is driven purely by asymmetries in the physical state or composition of the vesicle membranes, and, when lipid resource is limited, translates directly into competition amongst the vesicles. Such a scenario is interesting from an origins of life perspective because a rudimentary form of cell-level selection emerges. To sharpen intuition about possible mechanisms underlying this behaviour, experimental work must be complemented with theoretical modelling. The aim of this paper is to provide a coarse-grain mathematical model of protocell lipid competition. Our model is capable of reproducing, often quantitatively, results from core experimental papers that reported distinct types vesicle competition. Additionally, we make some predictions untested in the lab, and develop a general numerical method for quickly solving the equilibrium point of a model vesicle population.