Package models and the information crisis of prebiotic evolution
Daniel A. M. M. Silvestre, Jos´e F. Fontanari
The coexistence of different types of templates has been the choice solution to the information crisis of prebiotic evolution, triggered by the finding that a single RNA-like template cannot carry enough information to code for any useful replicase. In principle, confining d distinct templates of length L in a package or protocell, whose survival depends on the coexistence of the templates it holds in, could resolve this crisis provided that d is made sufficiently large.
We review the prototypical package model of Niesert et al. (1981) which guarantees the greatest possible region of viability of the protocell population, and show that this model, and hence the entire package approach, does not resolve the information crisis. This is so because to secure survival the total information content of the protocell, Ld, must tend to a constant value that depends only on the spontaneous error rate per nucleotide of the template replication mechanism. As a result, an increase of d must be followed by a decrease of L to ensure the protocell viability, so that the net information gain is null.
Coming up with a coherent scenario to explain the coexistence of distinct templates has proved to be a most difficult endeavor and it may already be time to turn to new approaches to solve the information crisis of prebiotic evolution. We have nothing to offer on this direction.