Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
The origin of living dynamics required a local evasion of thermodynamic degradation by maintaining critical dynamical and structural constraints. Scenarios for life’s origin that fail to distinguish between constrained chemistry and regulated metabolism do not address the question of how living processes first emerge from simpler constraints on molecular interactions. We describe a molecular model system consisting of coupled reciprocal catalysis and self-assembly in which one of the catalytic biproducts tends to spontaneously self-assemble into a containing shell (analogous to a viral capsule). In this process we call autogenesis self-repair/reconstitution and reproduction are made possible by the fact that each of these linked self-organizing processes generates boundary constraints that promote and limit the other, and because this synergy thereby becomes embodied as a persistent rateindependent substrate-transferrable constraint on the synergy of its component constraint-generating processes. It is proposed that this higher-order formal constraint is necessary and sufficient to constitute regulation as opposed to mere physico-chemical constraint. Two minor elaborations of this model system demonstrate how cybernetic and template-based regulation could emerge from this basic process.