Catalytic processing in ruthenium-based polyoxometalate coacervate protocells

Pierangelo Gobbo, Liangfei Tian, B. V.V.S. Pavan Kumar, Samuel Turvey, Mattia Cattelan, Avinash J. Patil*, Mauro Carraro, Marcella Bonchio, Stephen Mann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


The development of programmable microscale materials with cell-like functions, dynamics and collective behaviour is an important milestone in systems chemistry, soft matter bioengineering and synthetic protobiology. Here, polymer/nucleotide coacervate micro-droplets are reconfigured into membrane-bounded polyoxometalate coacervate vesicles (PCVs) in the presence of a bio-inspired Ru-based polyoxometalate catalyst to produce synzyme protocells (Ru4PCVs) with catalase-like activity. We exploit the synthetic protocells for the implementation of multi-compartmentalized cell-like models capable of collective synzyme-mediated buoyancy, parallel catalytic processing in individual horseradish peroxidase-containing Ru4PCVs, and chemical signalling in distributed or encapsulated multi-catalytic protocell communities. Our results highlight a new type of catalytic micro-compartment with multi-functional activity and provide a step towards the development of protocell reaction networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41 (2020)
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • BrisSynBio
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


  • Synthetic biology


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