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Building a synthetic mechanosensitive signaling pathway in compartmentalized artificial cells

  • Hindley, JW
  • Zheleva, DG
  • Elani, Y
  • Charalambous, K
  • Barter, LMC
  • Booth, PJ
  • Bevan, CL
  • Law, RV
  • Ces, O
Publication Date
Jun 24, 2019
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


To date reconstitution of one of the fundamental methods of cell communication, the signaling pathway, has been unaddressed in the bottom-up construction of artificial cells (ACs). Such developments are needed to increase the functionality and biomimicry of ACs, accelerating their translation and application in biotechnology. Here we report the construction of a de novo synthetic signaling pathway in microscale nested vesicles. Vesicle cell models respond to external calcium signals through activation of an intracellular interaction between phospholipase A2 and a mechanosensitive channel present in the internal membranes, triggering content mixing between compartments and controlling cell fluorescence. Emulsion-based approaches to AC construction are therefore shown to be ideal for the quick design and testing of new signaling networks and can readily include synthetic molecules difficult to introduce to biological cells. This work represents a foundation for the engineering of multi-compartment-spanning designer pathways that can be utilised to control downstream events inside an artificial cell, leading to the assembly of micromachines capable of sensing and responding to changes in their local environment.

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