Information

Two functions and properties of information that are required for a functional protocell are

  • The direct control of the metabolism
  • The ability for self-replication

The word "information" covers various concepts depending on the particulars of each research field where this term is used.

Information can be as simple as a bit in binary notation (O/1) or as complex as contemporary biological information. In terms of evolution, it seems likely that biological information arose as the product of evolutionary processes and thus must have been preceded by a more "simple" type of systems.

In chemical systems, we can differenciate between at least three forms of information that can be categorized into two large categories, molecular and systemic information.

  1. Molecular information
    Catalytic information that can be defined as the type and molecular make-up of a catalyst. That is, is the catalyst a metal complex or a small polymers (e.g., peptides and nucleic acids)? Does the derivatization of the catalyst change its properties?
  2. Systemic information
    The molecular composition of a system provided it can be maintained throughout a reaction. That is, a system formed by lipids and small hydrophobic molecules will affect its properties, thereby will represent a form of information. Part of the information might also be defined by the environment surrounding the chemical system and their interconnections.
  3. The encoding information in a biological sense. Here a polymer DNA contains the information that however needs a complex machinery (transcription-translation) to be truly accessed.

Our design for the protocell envisions an information that is directly involved in the protocell function and is truly replicable. This approach has obvious implications for the type and the complexity of the information part. We believe that, though a very attractive endeavor, it will be impossible, at least in the near future, to re-assemble a biological mimic, even a minimal one, and obtain a complete replication of the large number of proteins involved (e.g., 50 proteins form a ribosome. That is 50 DNA templates are needed and their assembly into a functional unit has to follow their synthesis).