Actuation and division of synthetic cells with DNA nanotechnology

Dr. Kerstin Göpfrich, Research Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research

Abstract: The future of manufacturing entails the construction of biological systems and synthetic cells from the bottom up. Instead of relying exclusively on biological building blocks, the integration of new tools and new materials may be a shortcut towards the assembly of active and eventually fully functional synthetic cells [Göpfrich et al., Trends Biotechnol., 2018]. This is especially apparent when considering recent advances in DNA nanotechnology and microfluidics. Exemplifying this approach, we use microfluidics for the assembly of synthetic cellular compartments that we equip with natural or DNA-based synthetic cytoskeletons [Jahnke et al., Adv. Biosys.2020Adv. Funct. Mater., 2019]. We find that the choice of flurophore strongly influences dynamic DNA nanostructures, which can be exploited to tune the energy landscapes for their reconfiguration [Jahnke et al., Nucleic Acids Res.2021]. We further demonstrate the division of giant unilamellar lipid vesicles (GUVs) based on phase separation and osmosis rather than the biological building blocks of a cell’s division machinery. We derive a parameter-free analytical model which makes quantitative predictions that we verify experimentally [Dreher et al., Angew. Chem., 2020]. All in all, we believe that precision technologies, like DNA nanotechnology, can help to accelerate synthetic biology research.



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