Triggerable Protocell Capture in Nanoparticle-Caged Coacervate Microdroplets

Ning Gao, Can Xu, Zhuping Yin, Mei Li, Stephen Mann*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

31 Citations (Scopus)
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Controlling the dynamics of mixed communities of cell-like entities (protocells) provides a step toward the development of higher-order cytomimetic behaviors in artificial cell consortia. In this paper, we develop a caged protocell model with a molecularly crowded coacervate interior surrounded by a non-cross-linked gold (Au)/poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) nanoparticle-jammed stimuli-responsive membrane. The jammed membrane is unlocked by either exogenous light-mediated Au/PEG dissociation at the Au surface or endogenous enzyme-mediated cleavage of a ketal linkage on the PEG backbone. The membrane assembly/disassembly process is used for the controlled and selective uptake of guest protocells into the caged coacervate microdroplets as a path toward an all-water model of triggerable transmembrane uptake in synthetic protocell communities. Active capture of the guest protocells stems from the high sequestration potential of the coacervate interior such that tailoring the surface properties of the guest protocells provides a rudimentary system of protocell sorting. Our results highlight the potential for programming surface-contact interactions between artificial membrane-bounded compartments and could have implications for the development of protocell networks, storage and delivery microsystems, and microreactor technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3855–3862
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number9
Early online date22 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the following for financial support: European Commission (S.M. and M. L., 8082 H2020 PCELLS 740235), Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology (N.G.), European Commission (C.X., Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants No. 837197) and Chinese Scholarship Council (Z. Y.).The authors greatly thank the Chemical Imaging Facility (University of Bristol) and the Wolfson Bioimaging Facility (University of Bristol) for help with physical characterization, Judith Mantell (University of Bristol) for assistance with TEM characterization, Dr. Jean-Charles Eloi (University of Bristol) for fruitful discussions, and Dr. Andrew Herman (University of Bristol) for assistance with FACS.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society

Structured keywords

  • Max Planck Bristol
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


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