An Adaptive Synthetic Cell Based on Mechanosensing, Biosensing, and Inducible Gene Circuits

Jonathan Garamella, Sagardip Majumder, Allen P. Liu, Vincent Noireaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1920
Number of pages8
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 16 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding 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.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society.


  • MscL
  • biosensing
  • cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL)
  • gene circuits
  • synthetic cell


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