Publication 5892

Luisi P. L. (1994) The chemical implementation of autopoiesis. In: Fleischaker G. R., Colonna S. & Luigi P. L. (eds.) Self-production of supramolecular structures: From synthetic structures to models of minimal living systems. Kluwer, Dordrecht: 179–197. Fulltext at
Abstract: The notion of autopoiesis, as originally formulated in the seventies by Maturana and Varela, is first reviewed and it is pointed out how this view offers a definition of minimal life which differs in some respect from the more conventional view, which is based on the template recognition mechanism of nucleic acids. The main criterium for autopoiesis is self-maintenance of the autopoietic unity from within its own. Here it is shown, however, that self-reproduction, when it is originated from reactions taking place within the boundary of the autopoietic unity, can also be seen as a criterium for autopoiesis. Examples of self-reproducing micelles are then reviewed and it is discussed to what extent they can be considered as autopoietic unities. One experiment is discussed in some more detail, as it bears a relation with the origin of life: this is the case of caprylate micelles in water which are spontaneously build from the hydrolysis of water-insoluble ethylcaprylate (EC) – once the first micelles are formed, there is a fast autocatalytic hydrolysis of further EC which produces more micelles in a superexponentially accelerated process. The plan for future experiments in the area, e.g. core-and-shell-replication, is there also outlined. It is finally argued that the progress of this work on autopoietic structures, more than on micelles, must be based on vesicles and liposomes, and preliminary work on this field is discussed.

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