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Title: Lipid sponge droplets as programmable synthetic organelles

Living cells segregate molecules and reactions in various subcellular compartments known as organelles. Spatial organization is likely essential for expanding the biochemical functions of synthetic reaction systems, including artificial cells. Many studies have attempted to mimic organelle functions using lamellar membrane-bound vesicles. However, vesicles typically suffer from highly limited transport across the membranes and an inability to mimic the dense membrane networks typically found in organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum. Here, we describe programmable synthetic organelles based on highly stable nonlamellar sponge phase droplets that spontaneously assemble from a single-chain galactolipid and nonionic detergents. Due to their nanoporous structure, lipid sponge droplets readily exchange materials with the surrounding environment. In addition, the sponge phase contains a dense network of lipid bilayers and nanometric aqueous channels, which allows different classes of molecules to partition based on their size, polarity, and specific binding motifs. The sequestration of biologically relevant macromolecules can be programmed by the addition of suitably functionalized amphiphiles to the droplets. We demonstrate that droplets can harbor functional soluble and transmembrane proteins, allowing for the colocalization and concentration of enzymes and substrates to enhance reaction rates. Droplets protect bound proteins from proteases, and these interactions can be engineered to more » be reversible and optically controlled. Our results show that lipid sponge droplets permit the facile integration of membrane-rich environments and self-assembling spatial organization with biochemical reaction systems.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 18206-18215
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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