Chemical Signaling and Functional Activation in Colloidosome-Based Protocells

Shiyong Sun, Mei Li*, Faqin Dong, Shengjie Wang, Liangfei Tian, Stephen Mann

*Corresponding author for this work

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

80 Citations (Scopus)
681 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1920-1927
Number of pages8
Issue number14
Early online date29 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016


  • colloidosomes
  • microcapsules
  • protocells


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