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Mastering complexity: towards bottom-up construction of multifunctional eukaryotic synthetic cells

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Göpfrich,  Kerstin
Cellular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Max Planck Society;
Biophysical Chemistry, Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany;

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Platzman,  Ilia
Cellular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Max Planck Society;
Biophysical Chemistry, Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany;

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Spatz,  Joachim P.
Cellular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Max Planck Society;
Biophysical Chemistry, Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany;

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Citation

Göpfrich, K., Platzman, I., & Spatz, J. P. (2018). Mastering complexity: towards bottom-up construction of multifunctional eukaryotic synthetic cells. Trends in Biotechnology, 36(9), 938-951. doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2018.03.008.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-319E-6
Abstract
Bottom-up synthetic biology thrives in reverse-engineering a particular biological function using a minimal set of molecular components, like purified proteins. Recently, precision technologies, like microfluidics, have been used to recombine functional modules towards multifunctional synthetic cells. Synthetic biology can capitalize on a variety of pre-existing on-chip functions, which greatly increases the scope for complexity in the field. Advances in DNA nanotechnology gave rise to a diverse range of fully synthetic functional modules, like DNA-based ion channels or motors, which can replace some protein-based parts. Noteworthy progress has been made in achieving large and stable compartments, organelle-like multicompartment systems, and sophisticated cytoskeletal structures. With the ultimate aim to construct a living cell, bottom-up synthetic biology strives to reconstitute cellular phenomena in vitro – disentangled from the complex environment of a cell. Recent work towards this ambitious goal has provided new insights into the mechanisms governing life. With the fast-growing library of functional modules for synthetic cells, their classification and integration become increasingly important. We discuss strategies to reverse-engineer and recombine functional parts for synthetic eukaryotes, mimicking the characteristics of nature’s own prototype. Particularly, we focus on large outer compartments, complex endomembrane systems with organelles, and versatile cytoskeletons as hallmarks of eukaryotic life. Moreover, we identify microfluidics and DNA nanotechnology as two technologies that can integrate these functional modules into sophisticated multifunctional synthetic cells.