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Mechanosensitive self-replication driven by self-organization.

ABSTRACT

Self-replicating molecules are likely to have played an important role in the origin of life, and a small number of fully synthetic self-replicators have already been described. Yet it remains an open question which factors most effectively bias the replication toward the far-from-equilibrium distributions characterizing even simple organisms. We report here two self-replicating peptide-derived macrocycles that emerge from a small dynamic combinatorial library and compete for a common feedstock. Replication is driven by nanostructure formation, resulting from the assembly of the peptides into fibers held together by beta sheets. Which of the two replicators becomes dominant is influenced by whether the sample is shaken or stirred. These results establish that mechanical forces can act as a selection pressure in the competition between replicators and can determine the outcome of a covalent synthesis.