Liquid-liquid phase separation confined in a membrane to artificial organelles
As the basic unit of life, cells are compartmentalized microreactors with overpopulated microenvironments at the molecular level. The quest to understand the origin of the cell inspires the design of synthetic analogs to mimic their functionality and structural complexity. In this work, we integrate membrane-less coacervate microdroplets, a prototype of artificial organelles, into a proteinosome to construct hierarchical protocells that can serve as a more realistic model of cellular organization. Sub-compartments of protocols can detect extracellular signals, take action in response to these stimuli, and adapt their physicochemical behaviors. Staged Protocells are also capable of enriching biomolecular reagents in confined organelles, thereby accelerating enzymatic reactions. The signal processing capability inside the protocols allows us to design Boolean logic gates (NOR and NAND) using biochemical inputs. Our results highlight a possible exploration of the protocell community signaling and provide a flexible synthetic platform to study complex metabolic reaction networks and embedded chemical computation.
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