The central and the most difficult question is how to functionally integrate the three components the information, the metabolism, and the container. The papers below discuss different theoretical and experimental issues associated with this integration.

One of our main experimental result so far shows that informational molecules can catalyze the metabolic formation of container molecules and thus for the first time demonstrates a catalytic coupling between these three key components. One of our main theoretical results predicts that a simple catalytic coupling between the three key components results in balanced exponential growth of all components.

Some of our main remaining milestones are: (i) Demonstrate varying metabolic kinetics depending on the informational molecular (gene) sequence; (ii) Demonstrate aggregate associated informational molecular replication; (iii) Demonstrate resource (precursor lipids and gene components) feeding of protocellular aggregate with successive division of aggregate and continued reaction activity. (iv) Combine (ii) and (iii) to demonstrate coupling of the gene replication process and the metabolic process, which should enable us to realize the full protocell life-cycle, see below.

S. Rasmussen, L. Chen, M. Nilsson, and S. Abe, Bridging nonliving and living matter, J. Artif. Life 9 (2003) 269-316
S. Rasmussen, L. Chen, D. Deamer, D. Krakauer, N. Packard, P. Stadler, M. Bedau, Transition from nonliving to living matter, Science303 (2004) 963-965
T. Rouchelau, S. Rasmussen, P. Nielsen, M. Jacobi, and H. Ziock, Emergence of protocellular growth laws, Phil. Trans. R. Soc B 362(2007) 1841
A. Munteanu, C. Attolini, S. Rasmussen, H. Ziock, and R. Solé, Generic Darwinian selection in catalytic protocell assemblies, Phil. Trans. R. Soc B 362 (2007) 1848
Harold Fellermann, Steen Rasmussen, Hans-Joachim Ziock, and Richard Solé, Life-cycle of a minimal protocell - a dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) study, J. Artif. Life 13 (2007) 319-345
Steen Rasmussen, James Bailey, James Boncella, Liaohai Chen, Gavin Collis, Stirling Colgate, Micheal DeClue, Harold Fellermann, Goran Goranovic, Yi Jiang, Chad Knutson, Pierre-Alain Monnard, Fouzi Mouffouk, Martin Nilsson Jacobi, Anjana Sen, Andy Shreve, Arvidas Tamulis, Brian Travis, Pawel Weronski, Jinzou Zhang, Xin Zhou, Hans-Joachim Ziock, and William Woodruff, Assembly of a minimal protocell, In: S. Rasmussen, et al. (ed.), Protocells: Bridging Nonliving and Living Matter, 2008, in press
M. DeClue, P-A Monnard, J. Bailey, S. E. Maurer, G. E. Collis, H. Ziock, S. Rasmussen, and J.M. Boncella,, Nucleobase mediated, photocatalytic vesicle formation from ester precursor molecules, 2008, submitted