The bottom-up assembly of synthetic cell systems capable of recapitulating biological functions has become a means to understand living matter by construction. The integration of biomolecular components into active, cell-sized, genetically programmed compartments remains, however, a major bottleneck for building synthetic cells. A primary feature of real cells is their ability to actively interact with their surroundings, particularly in stressed conditions. Here, we construct a synthetic cell equipped with an inducible genetic circuit that responds to changes in osmotic pressure through the mechanosensitive channel MscL. Liposomes loaded with an E. coli cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) system are induced with IPTG when exposed to hypo-osmotic solution, resulting in the expression of a bacterial cytoskeletal protein MreB. MreB associates with the membrane to generate a cortex-like structure. Our work provides the first example of molecular integration that couples mechanosensitivity, gene expression, and self-assembly at the inner membrane of synthetic cells.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is supported by the National Science Foundation MCB-1612917 to A.P.L. and MCB-1613677 to V.N., and the Human Frontier Science Program grant number RGP0037/2015 to V.N.
© 2019 American Chemical Society.
- cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL)
- gene circuits
- synthetic cell