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Evolutionary dynamics in a simple model of self-assembly

Iain G. Johnston, Sebastian E. Ahnert, Jonathan P.K. Doye and Ard A. Louis

Phys. Rev. E 83, 066105 (2011)


We investigate the evolutionary dynamics of an idealised model for the robust self-assembly of two-dimensional structures called polyominoes. The model includes rules that encode interactions between sets of square tiles that drive the self-assembly process. The relationship between the model's rule set and its resulting self-assembled structure can be viewed as a genotype-phenotype map and incorporated into a genetic algorithm. The rule sets evolve under selection for specified target structures. The corresponding, complex fitness landscape generates rich evolutionary dynamics as a function of parameters such as the population size, search space size, mutation rate, and method of recombination. Furthermore, these systems are simple enough that in some cases the associated model genome space can be completely characterised, shedding light on how the evolutionary dynamics depends on the detailed structure of the fitness landscape. Finally, we apply the model to study the emergence of the preference for dihedral over cyclic symmetry observed for homomeric protein tetramers.

The full paper is available from Phys. Rev. E and arXiv.org.