Projects per year
An aqueous-based microcompartmentalized model involving the integration of partially hydrophobic Fe(III)-rich montmorillonite (FeM) clay particles as structural and catalytic building blocks for colloidosome membrane assembly, self-directed membrane remodeling, and signal-induced protocell communication is described. The clay colloidosomes exhibit size- and charge-selective permeability, and show dual catalytic functions involving spatially confined enzyme-mediated dephosphorylation and peroxidase-like membrane activity. The latter is used for the colloidosome-mediated synthesis and assembly of a temperature-responsive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)(PNIPAM)/clay-integrated hybrid membrane. In situ PNIPAM elaboration of the membrane is coupled to a glucose oxidase (GOx)-mediated signaling pathway to establish a primitive model of chemical communication and functional activation within a synthetic "protocell community" comprising a mixed population of GOx-containing silica colloidosomes and alkaline phosphatase (ALP)-containing FeM-clay colloidosomes. Triggering the enzyme reaction in the silica colloidosomes gives a hydrogen peroxide signal that induces polymer wall formation in a coexistent population of the FeM-clay colloidosomes, which in turn generates self-regulated membrane-gated ALP-activity within the clay microcompartments. The emergence of new functionalities in inorganic colloidosomes via chemical communication between different protocell populations provides a first step toward the realization of interacting communities of synthetic functional microcompartments.