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The social coevolution hypothesis for the origin of enzymatic cooperation

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Samuel R. Levin
Sylvain Gandon
Stuart A. West
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The social coevolution hypothesis for the origin of enzymatic cooperation


Abstract

At the start of life, the origin of a primitive genome required individ- ual replicators, or genes, to act like enzymes and cooperatively copy each other. The evolutionary stability of such enzymatic cooperation poses a problem, because it would have been susceptible to parasitic replicators, that don't act like enzymes, but could still bene�t from the enzymatic behaviour of other replicators. Existing hypotheses to solve this problem require restrictive assumptions that may not be justi�ed, such as the evo- lution of a cell membrane before the evolution of enzymatic cooperation. We show theoretically that, instead, selection itself can lead to replicators grouping themselves together in a way that favours cooperation. We show that the tendency to physically associate to others and cooperative enzy- matic activity can coevolve, leading to the evolution of physically linked cooperative replicators. Our results shift the empirical problem from a search for special environmental conditions to questions about what types of phenotypes can be produced by simple replicators.

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