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Giant lipid vesicles have been used extensively as a synthetic cell model to recapitulate various life-like processes, including in vitro protein synthesis, DNA replication, and cytoskeleton organization. Cell-sized lipid vesicles are mechanically fragile in nature and prone to rupture due to osmotic stress, which limits their usability. Recently, peptide vesicles have been introduced as an alternative chassis material for synthetic cells that are more robust and stable than lipid vesicles, and can withstand harsh conditions including pH, thermal, and osmotic variations. In this work, we combine coarse-grained molecular simulation, enhanced sampling free energy calculations, Gaussian process regression, and Bayesian optimization to construct an active learning screening for diblock amphiphilic elastin-like polypeptides capable of forming thermodynamically stable vesicular structures suitable for the self-assembly of synthetic peptide vesicles. Our computational screen identifies a number of promising sequences that form peptidic vesicles with high thermodynamic stabilities relative to isolated peptides in bulk solvent on the order of 10-15 k B T per amino acid residue.
In search of a novel chassis material for synthetic cells: emergence of synthetic peptide compartmentGiant lipid vesicles have been used extensively as a synthetic cell model to recapitulate various life-like processes, including in vitro protein synthesis, DNA replication, and cytoskeleton organization. Cell-sized lipid vesicles are mechanically fragile in nature and prone to rupture due to osmotic stress, which limits their usability. Recently, peptide vesicles have been introduced as a synthetic cell model that would potentially overcome the aforementioned limitations. Peptide vesicles are robust, reasonably more stable than lipid vesicles and can withstand harsh conditions including pH, thermal, and osmotic variations. This mini-review summarizes the current state-of-the-art in the design, engineering, and realization of peptide-based chassis materials, including both experimental and computational work. We present an outlook for simulation-aided and data-driven design and experimental realization of engineered and multifunctional synthetic cells.
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 tomore »
We demonstrate the facile and robust generation of giant peptide vesicles by using an emulsion transfer method. These robust vesicles can sustain chemical and physical stresses. The peptide vesicles can host cell-free expression reactions by encapsulating essential ingredients. We show the incorporation of another cell-free expressed elastin-like polypeptide into the existing membrane of the peptide vesicles.
Cell-like hybrids from natural and synthetic amphiphiles provide a platform to engineer functions of synthetic cells and protocells. Cell membranes and vesicles prepared from human cell membranes are relatively unstable in vitro and therefore are difficult to study. The thicknesses of biological membranes and vesicles self-assembled from amphiphilic Janus dendrimers, known as dendrimersomes, are comparable. This feature facilitated the coassembly of functional cell-like hybrid vesicles from giant dendrimersomes and bacterial membrane vesicles generated from the very stable bacterial
Escherichia colicell after enzymatic degradation of its outer membrane. Human cells are fragile and require only mild centrifugation to be dismantled and subsequently reconstituted into vesicles. Here we report the coassembly of human membrane vesicles with dendrimersomes. The resulting giant hybrid vesicles containing human cell membranes, their components, and Janus dendrimers are stable for at least 1 y. To demonstrate the utility of cell-like hybrid vesicles, hybrids from dendrimersomes and bacterial membrane vesicles containing YadA, a bacterial adhesin protein, were prepared. The latter cell-like hybrids were recognized by human cells, allowing for adhesion and entry of the hybrid bacterial vesicles into human cells in vitro.