Membrane Augmented Cell-Free Systems: A New Frontier in Biotechnology

Nicholas S. Kruyer, Widianti Sugianto, Benjamin I. Tickman, Diego Alba Burbano, Vincent Noireaux, James M. Carothers, Pamela Peralta-Yahya

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Membrane proteins are present in a wide array of cellular processes from primary and secondary metabolite synthesis to electron transport and single carbon metabolism. A key barrier to applying membrane proteins industrially is their difficult functional production. Beyond expression, folding, and membrane insertion, membrane protein activity is influenced by the physicochemical properties of the associated membrane, making it difficult to achieve optimal membrane protein performance outside the endogenous host. In this review, we highlight recent work on production of membrane proteins in membrane augmented cell-free systems (CFSs) and applications thereof. CFSs lack membranes and can thus be augmented with user-specified, tunable, mimetic membranes to generate customized environments for production of functional membrane proteins of interest. Membrane augmented CFSs would enable the synthesis of more complex plant secondary metabolites, the growth and division of synthetic cells for drug delivery and cell therapeutic applications, as well as enable green energy applications including methane capture and artificial photosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-681
Number of pages12
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 16 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (CBET 1844152) to V.N., J.M.C., and P.P.-Y.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.


  • cell-free systems
  • liposomes
  • membrane proteins
  • natural products
  • synthetic cells

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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