Creating complex protocells and prototissues using simple DNA building blocks

Rosetrees-funded researchers at UCL have utilized macromolecular DNA nanotechnology to build modular and predictable synthetic skeletal filaments inside and outside protocells and prototissues. these findings expand the boundaries of synthetic biology by enabling complex exo- and cytoskeletal structures to be fabricated in a simple, rapid, and predictable fashion. The cytoskeletal texture, stiffness, composition, and proximity can be custom-tailored by adding appropriate concentrations of magnesium ions, in combination with optional chemically modified oligonucleotides.


By utilizing DNA nanotechnology, this approach can be expanded to build more complex systems with advanced control, such as, multiple DNA cytoskeleton types acting constructively to mimic actin-microtubule stabilization, cytoskeleton cross-talk, or dynamic rearrangement of fibers which grow and contract on-command to induce cellular movement. Alternatively, the cytoskeletons can be decorated in synthetic motor-proteins which transport large body payloads between sites anchored to nucleus envelope mimics, or be decorated in pore-forming devices to coordinate sensing and communication between inter-vesicle compartments.

The UCL research could open the door towards smart synthetic cells and tissues used for intravenous sensing, drug delivery, and cell repair applications.