Artificial cell synthesis using biocatalytic polymerization-induced self-assembly

Belluati, Andrea and Jimaja, Sètuhn and Chadwick, Robert J. and Glynn, Christopher and Chami, Mohamed and Happel, Dominic and Guo, Chao and Kolmar, Harald and Bruns, Nico (2024) Artificial cell synthesis using biocatalytic polymerization-induced self-assembly. Nature Chemistry, 16 (4). pp. 564-574. ISSN 1755-4330 (

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Artificial cells are biomimetic microstructures that mimic functions of natural cells, can be applied as building blocks for molecular systems engineering, and host synthetic biology pathways. Here we report enzymatically synthesized polymer-based artificial cells with the ability to express proteins. Artificial cells were synthesized using biocatalytic atom transfer radical polymerization-induced self-assembly, in which myoglobin synthesizes amphiphilic block co-polymers that self-assemble into structures such as micelles, worm-like micelles, polymersomes and giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs). The GUVs encapsulate cargo during the polymerization, including enzymes, nanoparticles, microparticles, plasmids and cell lysate. The resulting artificial cells act as microreactors for enzymatic reactions and for osteoblast-inspired biomineralization. Moreover, they can express proteins such as a fluorescent protein and actin when fed with amino acids. Actin polymerizes in the vesicles and alters the artificial cells’ internal structure by creating internal compartments. Thus, biocatalytic atom transfer radical polymerization-induced self-assembly-derived GUVs can mimic bacteria as they are composed of a microscopic reaction compartment that contains genetic information for protein expression upon induction.