Synlett 2017; 28(01): 30-35
DOI: 10.1055/s-0036-1589403
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

A Roadmap toward Synthetic Protolife

Robert Pascala, Addy Pross*b, c
  • aInstitut des Biomolecules Max Mousseron, UMR5247 CNRS-University of Montpellier-ENSCM, CC17006 Place E. Bataillon Montpellier 34095, France
  • bDepartment of Chemistry, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva 84105, Israel
  • cNYU Shanghai, 1555 Century Avenue, Pudong New Area, Shanghai 200122, P. R. of China   Email:
Further Information

Publication History

Received: 06 September 2016

Accepted after revision: 06 October 2016

Publication Date:
25 October 2016 (eFirst)


The origin-of-life problem remains one of the major scientific riddles of all time and the difficulties in attempts to synthesize simple protolife reflect yet one additional facet of this long-standing problem. In this review we argue that a strategy for the synthesis of protolife requires the characterization of the physicochemical state of life’s primordial beginnings, not just its material composition. It is through the concept of dynamic kinetic stability (DKS) that key elements of that state can be specified. A protolife system potentially able to evolve toward biological complexity would need to be both driven by exponential replicative growth as well as to be in a dynamic, non-equilibrium and energy-fueled (DKS) state. With the recent discovery that DKS systems are experimentally accessible and show remarkably different physical and chemical characteristics to regular chemical systems, the door to the possible synthesis of simple protolife now appears to be open.