Game Theory Used to Predict RNA Behavior

It is a widely accepted concept that RNA is the father to all existing life but not much is known about the interactions between genotypes.  Portland State University (PSU) scientists attempted to figure out what influences the “choices” made using game theory.  Our textbook “Networks, Crowds and Markets” defines game theory as:

“…concerned with situations in which decision-makers interact with one another, and in which the happiness of each participant with the outcome depends not just on his or her own decisions but on the decisions made by everyone. ”

This application of game theory is unique and sparked my interest because I have only thought about examples between two people.  It’s an abstract concept to think about RNA cooperating and coming to decision but that is exactly what PSU scientists have shown. In order to study these decisions, they had to synthetically reproduce the genotypes that existed a long time ago.

Their research was done on interactions between two and three RNA genotypes.  Although there is typically larger scale interactions in nature, having so few genotypes made analysis much simpler.  They hypothesize in their journal that the trend would continue as more genotypes enter the equation.  Interestingly enough, they’ve collected a sufficient amount of data that they’re able to accurately predict the actions taken by these genotypes.  They categorized the decisions made into three categories: cooperation, selfishness, or a mixture of the two.  Unfortunately, the way in which the chemical dynamics are modeled is math intensive and quite difficult to understand. Without this cooperation, modern cells wouldn’t have evolved so this could be argued to be the most powerful game theory analysis ever.

A Beautiful Microbe: Game Theory Sheds Light on the Biggest Question of All

Full PNAS Journal

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