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Artificial Life

Winter 2009, Vol. 15, No. 1, Pages 29-58
(doi: 10.1162/artl.2009.15.1.15103)
© 2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
An Effective Hierarchical Model for the Biomolecular Covalent Bond: An Approach Integrating Artificial Chemistry and an Actual Terrestrial Life System
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Under the AChem paradigm and the programmed self-decomposition (PSD) model, we propose a hierarchical model for the biomolecular covalent bond (HBCB model). This model assumes that terrestrial organisms arrange their biomolecules in a hierarchical structure according to the energy strength of their covalent bonds. It also assumes that they have evolutionarily selected the PSD mechanism of turning biological polymers (BPs) into biological monomers (BMs) as an efficient biomolecular recycling strategy. We have examined the validity and effectiveness of the HBCB model by coordinating two complementary approaches: biological experiments using existent terrestrial life, and simulation experiments using an AChem system. Biological experiments have shown that terrestrial life possesses a PSD mechanism as an endergonic, genetically regulated process and that hydrolysis, which decomposes a BP into BMs, is one of the main processes of such a mechanism. In simulation experiments, we compared different virtual self-decomposition processes. The virtual species in which the self-decomposition process mainly involved covalent bond cleavage from a BP to BMs showed evolutionary superiority over other species in which the self-decomposition process involved cleavage from BP to classes lower than BM. These converging findings strongly support the existence of PSD and the validity and effectiveness of the HBCB model.