Protocell design through modular compartmentalization

David Miller, Paula J. Booth, John M. Seddon, Richard H. Templer, Robert V. Law, Rudiger Woscholski, Oscar Ces, Laura M. C. Barter

Abstract

De novo synthetic biological design has the potential to significantly impact upon applications such as energy generation and nanofabrication. Current designs for constructing organisms from component parts are typically limited in scope, as they utilize a cut-and-paste ideology to create simple stepwise engineered protein-signalling pathways. We propose the addition of a new design element that segregates components into lipid-bound ‘proto-organelles’, which are interfaced with response elements and housed within a synthetic protocell. This design is inspired by living cells, which utilize multiple types of signalling molecules to facilitate communication between isolated compartments. This paper presents our design and validation of the components required for a simple multi-compartment protocell machine, for coupling a light transducer to a gene expression system. This represents a general design concept for the compartmentalization of different types of artificial cellular machinery and the utilization of non-protein signal molecules for signal transduction.

  • Received June 4, 2013.
  • Accepted July 12, 2013.
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