Intercellular communication between artificial cells by allosteric amplification of a molecular signal

Bastiaan C. Buddingh, Janneke Elzinga & Jan C. M. van Hest

Published: 03/04/2020


Multicellular organisms rely on intercellular communication to coordinate the behaviour of individual cells, which enables their differentiation and hierarchical organization. Various cell mimics have been developed to establish fundamental engineering principles for the construction of artificial cells displaying cell-like organization, behaviour and complexity. However, collective phenomena, although of great importance for a better understanding of life-like behaviour, are underexplored. Here, we construct collectives of giant vesicles that can communicate with each other through diffusing chemical signals that are recognized and processed by synthetic enzymatic cascades. Similar to biological cells, the Receiver vesicles can transduce a weak signal originating from Sender vesicles into a strong response by virtue of a signal amplification step, which facilitates the propagation of signals over long distances within the artificial cell consortia. This design advances the development of interconnected artificial cells that can exchange metabolic and positional information to coordinate their higher-order organization.

Full Access Link: Nature communications