Chemical-mediated translocation in protocell-based micro-actuators

Ning Gao*, Mei Li, Liangfei Tian, Avinash J Patil, B V V S Pavan Kumar, Stephen Mann*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

30 Citations (Scopus)
172 Downloads (Pure)


Artificial cell-like communities participate in diverse modes of chemical interaction but exhibit minimal interfacing with their local environment. Here we develop an interactive micro-system based on the immobilization of a population of enzyme-active semipermeable proteinosomes within a helical hydrogel filament to implement signal-induced movement. We attach large single polynucleotide/peptide microcapsules at one or both ends of the helical protocell filament to produce free-standing soft micro-actuators that sense and process chemical signals to perform mechanical work. Different modes of translocation are achieved by synergistic or antagonistic enzyme reactions located within the helical connector or inside the attached microcapsule loads. Mounting the micro-actuators on a ratchet-like surface produces a directional push-pull movement. Our methodology opens up a route to protocell-based chemical systems capable of utilising mechanical work and provides a step towards the engineering of soft microscale objects with increased levels of operational autonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868–879
JournalNature Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2021

Structured keywords

  • Bristol BioDesign Institute
  • Max Planck Bristol


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