transfer of genes among micelles is far more rapid than the rate of micelle division. Such systems are stable if size constraints prevent the assembly of the cellular consortium in a single micelle to form a cell. In this model, information-bearing micelles—those containing a mini-consortium at any one time—may contain as few as 1 gene. Since all micelles in the meta-cell do not contain genes at all times (each mini-consortium must exit a micelle to allow entry of another mini-consortium), the average genome size may be less than one gene. One may consider the meta-cell to be a single-celled organism whose genome is distributed through a network of micelles. If rapid transfer of genetic material defines a genetic architecture, a cell is not limited to containing all of the genes required for growth.


I thank Drs. Anthony Bledsoe, Susan Kalisz, and Roger Hendrix for helpful discussions. This work was supported by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


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