Producing a polymer copy of a polymer template is central to biology, and effective copies must persist after template separation. We show that this separation has three fundamental thermodynamic effects. First, polymer-template interactions do not contribute to overall reaction thermodynamics and hence cannot drive the process. Second, the equilibrium state of the copied polymer is template independent and so additional work is required to provide specificity. Finally, the mixing of copies from distinct templates makes correlations between template and copy sequences unexploitable, combining with copying inaccuracy to reduce the free energy stored in a polymer ensemble. These basic principles set limits on the underlying costs and resource requirements, and suggest design principles, for autonomous copying and replication in biological and synthetic systems.

Phys. Rev. Lett.
Biochemical Networks

Ouldridge, T., & ten Wolde, P. R. (2017). Fundamental costs in the production and destruction of persistent polymer copies. Phys.Rev.Lett., 118(Article number: 158103), 1–5. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.158103