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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 1;108(9):3473-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017075108. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

Development of an artificial cell, from self-organization to computation and self-reproduction.

Author information

1
University of Minnesota, 116 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.

Abstract

This article describes the state and the development of an artificial cell project. We discuss the experimental constraints to synthesize the most elementary cell-sized compartment that can self-reproduce using synthetic genetic information. The original idea was to program a phospholipid vesicle with DNA. Based on this idea, it was shown that in vitro gene expression could be carried out inside cell-sized synthetic vesicles. It was also shown that a couple of genes could be expressed for a few days inside the vesicles once the exchanges of nutrients with the outside environment were adequately introduced. The development of a cell-free transcription/translation toolbox allows the expression of a large number of genes with multiple transcription factors. As a result, the development of a synthetic DNA program is becoming one of the main hurdles. We discuss the various possibilities to enrich and to replicate this program. Defining a program for self-reproduction remains a difficult question as nongenetic processes, such as molecular self-organization, play an essential and complementary role. The synthesis of a stable compartment with an active interface, one of the critical bottlenecks in the synthesis of artificial cell, depends on the properties of phospholipid membranes. The problem of a self-replicating artificial cell is a long-lasting goal that might imply evolution experiments.

PMID:
21317359
PMCID:
PMC3048108
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1017075108
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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