Omnipresent Maxwell’s demons orchestrate information management in living cells

Microbial Biotechnology 12 (2):210-242 (2019)
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The development of synthetic biology calls for accurate understanding of the critical functions that allow construction and operation of a living cell. Besides coding for ubiquitous structures, minimal genomes encode a wealth of functions that dissipate energy in an unanticipated way. Analysis of these functions shows that they are meant to manage information under conditions when discrimination of substrates in a noisy background is preferred over a simple recognition process. We show here that many of these functions, including transporters and the ribosome construction machinery, behave as would behave a material implementation of the informationmanaging agent theorized by Maxwell almost 150 years ago and commonly known as Maxwell’s demon (MxD). A core gene set encoding these functions belongs to the minimal genome required to allow the construction of an autonomous cell. These MxDs allow the cell to perform computations in an energy-efficient way that is vastly better than our contemporary computers.
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