Reconstructing membraneless biocompartments using microfluidics [Image credit: Chem Commun]
05 Apr 2017
Reconstructing membraneless biocompartments using microfluidics

In a work recently published in Chemical Communications by the group of Germán Rivas at CIB novel procedures have been proposed for the encapsulation of the division protein FtsZ inside lipid-stabilized microdroplets generated by microfluidics. These microdroplets were subsequently converted into permeable giant unilamellar vesicles, allowing the introduction of small ligands into the system. The reported protocol, developed in collaboration with CD Keating at the Penn State University, presents higher yield, homogeneity and biomolecular compatibility than those previously described.

Living cells contain microenvironments and/or compartments, which can be mimicked through liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) systems, where certain molecules specifically accumulate to optimize their functions. Studies of the reactivity and localization of proteins and nucleic acids in these synthetic systems evidenced the deep influence that microenvironments can have on biological processes.

The methods proposed in this article could help in the generation of artificial cells which resemble different functionalities more faithfully, as they enable the inclusion of some of the features which are vital for living systems. The semipermeable boundary allows the exchange of molecules, and can be used as the basis for developments in tunable permeability promoting adaptivity. Membraneless phase separated systems modulate the macromolecules dynamic localization. The tight control of the concentrations of all reagents and subsequently in the generation of synthetic compartments is key for the control of reaction networks.

[Image credit: Chem Commun]

Reference: M Sobrinos-Sanguino, S Zorrilla, CD Keating, B Monterroso, G Rivas. 2017. Encapsulation of a compartmentalized cytoplasm mimic within a lipid membrane by microfluidics. Chem Commun (Camb). doi: 10.1039/c7cc01289f.