Toward an artificial cell based on gene expression in vesicles

Vincent Noireaux, Roy Bar-Ziv, Jeremy Godefroy, Hanna Salman, Albert Libchaber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


We present a new experimental approach to build an artificial cell using the translation machinery of a cell-free expression system as the hardware and a DNA synthetic genome as the software. This approach, inspired by the self-replicating automata of von Neumann, uses cytoplasmic extracts, encapsulated in phospholipid vesicles, to assemble custom-made genetic circuits to develop the functions of a minimal cell. Although this approach can find applications, especially in biotechnology, the primary goal is to understand how a DNA algorithm can be designed to build an operating system that has some of the properties of life. We provide insights on this cell-free approach as well as new results to transform step by step a long-lived vesicle bioreactor into an artificial cell. We show how the green fluorescent protein can be anchored to the membrane and we give indications of a possible insertion mechanism of integral membrane proteins. With vesicles composed of different phospholipids, the fusion protein alpha-hemolysin-eGFP can be expressed to reveal patterns on the membrane. The specific degradation complex ClpXP from E. coli is introduced to create a sink for the synthesized proteins. Perspectives and subsequent limitations of this approach are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)P1-P8
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005


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