Symmetry at the service of life

The symmetry of life is a spectacle that can be admired every day. It simply seems natural to us and we don’t necessarily pay attention to it. However, living specialists intend to find the reason for its origin, the hypotheses not being really satisfactory so far. Computer simulation now offers a new insight into this mystery.

Although asymmetries exist (like our heart being on the left or the fact that it is thanks to the matter/antimatter disparity just after the Big Bang that our Universe was able to evolve in this way and that consequently living beings exist), symmetries dominate the realm of the living. Researchers in mathematics, theoretical physics, bioinformatics and chemistry from Kuwait, Great Britain and Norway have therefore banded together to answer this question: why is symmetry so important to evolution? The team computer-simulated the evolution of thousands of microscopic biological structures.

Stronger simplified structures

The researchers explain in the study published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the shapes that emerge from the simulation are simplified while they seem to have a very complex architecture from an external point of view. Recurring patterns promote productivitywhile consuming little energy. In short, the best performance is adopted for optimum efficiency. These algorithmically generated cells would also be more resilient to be able to create better, more complex sets.

“Because symmetric structures require less information to encode, they are much more likely to appear as a potential variation. […] The algorithm predicts a much higher prevalence of low complexity (high symmetry) phenotypes than would arise from natural selection alone and also explains patterns seen in complex proteins, RNA secondary structures and the regulatory network of genes “say the scientists.

Credits: Furiosa-L / Pixabay

The highly reactive symmetry of life

However, it is not necessarily accepted that the symmetry of living organisms at the molecular level results only from natural selection. Life adapts to its environment, but cannot anticipate any need. So you have to adapt very quickly. . Join the game “immediate selective advantage“, as the researchers call it, where the symmetry of a set did not at first sight represent an ideal candidate.

“Here we present another non-adaptive hypothesis based on an algorithmic picture of evolution”tell us the researchers. “She suggests that symmetrical structures appear preferentially not only because of natural selection, but also becausethey require less specific informationto be encoded and are therefore much more likely to arise as phenotypic variation through random mutations. »

The symmetry of life on our scale. Credits: ulleo / pixnio

From atoms, neutrons and protons, a few billion years later, single-celled microbial lives. From these, again several billion years later, a world filled with beings with impressive cellular entanglements takes shape. The agglomerate of symmetrical structures over time leads to more and more complexity and unsuspected developments. With the myriad of data it took to shape this computer model, researchers are focusing on the microcosm for now. The results will help biologists better understand this balance at a larger scale.

Evolution allows the long-term creation of ever more complex genomes. However, an artificial intelligence has succeeded in reconstructing completely artificial human DNA. A breakthrough on the way to designing what nature took several geological ages to accomplish?

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Symmetry at the service of life

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