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Various steps in the RNA world required cooperation. Why did life's first inhabitants, from polymerases to synthetases, cooperate? We develop kin selection models of the RNA world to answer these questions. We develop a very simple model of RNA cooperation and then elaborate it to model three relevant issues in RNA biology: (1) whether cooperative RNAs receive the benefits of cooperation; (2) the scale of competition in RNA populations; and (3) explicit replicator diffusion and survival. We show: (1) that RNAs are likely to express partial cooperation; (2) that RNAs will need mechanisms for overcoming local competition; and (3) in a specific example of RNA cooperation, persistence after replication and offspring diffusion allow for cooperation to overcome competition. More generally, we show how kin selection can unify previously disparate answers to the question of RNA world cooperation.

Original publication

DOI

10.3390/life7040053

Type

Journal article

Journal

Life (Basel)

Publication Date

05/12/2017

Volume

7

Keywords

Hamilton’s rule, RNA cooperation, RNA world, kin selection, limited diffusion, modelling the origin of life, origin of the genome, scale of competition