The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Autocatalytic networks in biology: structural theory and algorithms"

Posted on 2019-01-24 - 16:47
Self-sustaining autocatalytic networks play a central role in living systems, from metabolism at the origin of life, simple RNA networks and the modern cell, to ecology and cognition. A collectively autocatalytic network that can be sustained from an ambient food set is also referred to more formally as a ‘Reflexively Autocatalytic Food-generated’ (RAF) set. In this paper, we first investigate a simplified setting for studying RAFs, which is nevertheless relevant to real biochemistry and which allow an exact mathematical analysis based on graph-theoretic concepts. This, in turn, allows for the development of efficient (polynomial-time) algorithms for questions that are computationally intractable (NP-hard) in the general RAF setting. We then show how this simplified setting for RAF systems leads naturally to a more general notion of RAFs that are ‘generative’ (they can be built up from simpler RAFs) and for which efficient algorithms carry over to this more general setting. Finally, we show how classical RAF theory can be extended to deal with ensembles of catalysts as well as the assignment of rates to reactions according to which catalysts (or combinations of catalysts) are available.


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