Engineering transient dynamics of artificial cells by stochastic distribution of enzymes

Shidong Song, Alexander F. Mason, Richard A. J. Post, Marco De Corato, Rafael Mestre, N. Amy Yewdall, Shoupeng Cao, Remco W. van der Hofstad, Samuel Sanchez, Loai K. E. A. Abdelmohsen & Jan C. M. van Hest

Published: December 2021


Random fluctuations are inherent to all complex molecular systems. Although nature has evolved mechanisms to control stochastic events to achieve the desired biological output, reproducing this in synthetic systems represents a significant challenge. Here we present an artificial platform that enables us to exploit stochasticity to direct motile behavior. We found that enzymes, when confined to the fluidic polymer membrane of a core-shell coacervate, were distributed stochastically in time and space. This resulted in a transient, asymmetric configuration of propulsive units, which imparted motility to such coacervates in presence of substrate. This mechanism was confirmed by stochastic modelling and simulations in silico. Furthermore, we showed that a deeper understanding of the mechanism of stochasticity could be utilized to modulate the motion output. Conceptually, this work represents a leap in design philosophy in the construction of synthetic systems with life-like behaviors.

Full Access Link: Nature Communications