DNA-based communication in populations of synthetic protocells

Alex Joesaar, Shuo Yang, Bas Bögels, Ardjan van der Linden, Pascal Pieters, B. V.V.S.Pavan Kumar, Neil Dalchau, Andrew Phillips, Stephen Mann, Tom F.A. de Greef*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

181 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Developing molecular communication platforms based on orthogonal communication channels is a crucial step towards engineering artificial multicellular systems. Here, we present a general and scalable platform entitled ‘biomolecular implementation of protocellular communication’ (BIO-PC) to engineer distributed multichannel molecular communication between populations of non-lipid semipermeable microcapsules. Our method leverages the modularity and scalability of enzyme-free DNA strand-displacement circuits to develop protocellular consortia that can sense, process and respond to DNA-based messages. We engineer a rich variety of biochemical communication devices capable of cascaded amplification, bidirectional communication and distributed computational operations. Encapsulating DNA strand-displacement circuits further allows their use in concentrated serum where non-compartmentalized DNA circuits cannot operate. BIO-PC enables reliable execution of distributed DNA-based molecular programs in biologically relevant environments and opens new directions in DNA computing and minimal cell technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number4
Early online date4 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019

Structured keywords

  • Bristol BioDesign Institute
  • BrisSynBio




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