Generating System-Level Responses from a Network of Simple Synthetic Replicators

Jan W. Sadownik, Tamara Kosikova, Douglas Philp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The creation of reaction networks capable of exhibiting responses that are properties of entire systems represents a significant challenge for the chemical sciences. The system-level behavior of a reaction network is linked intrinsically to its topology and the functional connections between its nodes. A simple network of chemical reactions constructed from four reagents, in which each reagent reacts with exactly two others, can exhibit up-regulation of two products even when only a single chemical reaction is addressed catalytically. We implement a system with this topology using two maleimides and two nitrones of different sizes - either short or long and each bearing complementary recognition sites - that react pairwise through 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition reactions to create a network of four length-segregated replicating templates. Comprehensive 1H NMR spectroscopy experiments unravel the network topology, confirming that, in isolation, three out of four templates self-replicate, with the shortest template exhibiting the highest efficiency. The strongest template effects within the network are the mutually cross-catalytic relationships between the two templates of intermediate size. The network topology is such that the addition of different preformed templates as instructions to a mixture of all starting materials elicits system-level behavior. Instruction with a single template up-regulates the formation of two templates in a predictable manner. These results demonstrate that the rules governing system-level behavior can be unraveled through the application of wholly synthetic networks with well-defined chemistries and interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17565-17573
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 6 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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