Seminar: "Game Theory in a Chemical System"


Dr. Niles Lehman, Dept. of Chemistry, PSU, Host: Irene Chen

Date and Location

Wednesday October 14, 2015 11:00am to 12:00pm
1601 Elings Hall


Biologists have long studied the evolutionary dynamics that apply when various genotypes compete for resources and reproductive success in a limited environment. The principles of game theory have been quiet useful in such analyses as they allow a prediction of winners and losers upon the interactions of individuals with different behavioral strategies. In our studies, we have applied the same principles to a purely chemical systems for perhaps the first time. By varying the 3-nucleotide guide sequences and their target tags in different molecules, we have been able to construct catalytic RNA "individuals" that have the capability to display a wide range of "behaviors" while interacting with other molecules. Such behaviors include selfishness, cooperation, promiscuity, and reciprocity, and we can observe outcomes such as the well known Prisoner's Dilemma at the chemical level. The interactions are directly the consequence of known base-pairing interactions, and lead to differing abilities of RNA sequences to be spontaneously assembled from shorter fragments. This spontaneous self-assembly is a model for the origin of replication in the hypothesized RNA World some 4 billions years ago, and thus we have a useful framework for a better understanding of chemistry became biology.