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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

The emergence of interstellar molecular complexity explained by interacting networks

García-Sánchez, Miguel; Jiménez-Serra, Izaskun; Puente Sanchez, Fernando; Aguirre, Jacobo


Recent years have witnessed the detection of an increasing number of complex organicmolecules in interstellar space, some of them being of prebiotic interest. Disentanglingthe origin of interstellar prebiotic chemistry and its connection to biochemistry andultimately, to biology is an enormously challenging scientific goal where the applicationof complexity theory and network science has not been fully exploited. Encouragedby this idea, we present a theoretical and computational framework to model theevolution of simple networked structures toward complexity. In our environment,complex networks represent simplified chemical compounds and interact optimizing thedynamical importance of their nodes. We describe the emergence of a transition fromsimple networks toward complexity when the parameter representing the environmentreaches a critical value. Notably, although our system does not attempt to model the rulesof real chemistry nor is dependent on external input data, the results describe the emer-gence of complexity in the evolution of chemical diversity in the interstellar medium.Furthermore, they reveal an as yet unknown relationship between the abundances ofmolecules in dark clouds and the potential number of chemical reactions that yieldthem as products, supporting the ability of the conceptual framework presented here toshed light on real scenarios. Our work reinforces the notion that some of the propertiesthat condition the extremely complex journey from the chemistry in space to prebioticchemistry and finally, to life could show relatively simple and universal patterns.

Published in

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
2022, volume: 119, number: 30, article number: e211973

Authors' information

García-Sánchez, Miguel
Comillas Pontifical University
Jiménez-Serra, Izaskun
CSIC - Centro de Astrobiologia (INTA)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Aguirre, Jacobo
CSIC - Centro de Astrobiologia (INTA)

UKÄ Subject classification

Bioinformatics (Computational Biology)

Publication Identifiers


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