Phagocytosis-inspired behaviour in synthetic protocell communities of compartmentalized colloidal objects

Laura Rodríguez-Arco, Mei Li, Stephen Mann*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

80 Citations (Scopus)
413 Downloads (Pure)


The spontaneous assembly of micro-compartmentalized colloidal objects capable of controlled interactions offers a step towards rudimentary forms of collective behaviour in communities of artificial cell-like entities (synthetic protocells). Here we report a primitive form of artificial phagocytosis in a binary community of synthetic protocells in which multiple silica colloidosomes are selectively ingested by self-propelled magnetic Pickering emulsion (MPE) droplets comprising particle-free fatty acid-stabilized apertures. Engulfment of the colloidosomes enables selective delivery and release of water-soluble payloads, and can be coupled to enzyme activity within the MPE droplets. Our results highlight opportunities for the development of new materials based on consortia of colloidal objects, and provide a novel microscale engineering approach to inducing higher-order behaviour in mixed populations of synthetic protocells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-863
Number of pages7
JournalNature Materials
Issue number8
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


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