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      Microfluidic platform enables tailored translocation and reaction cascades in nanoliter droplet networks

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          Abstract

          In the field of bottom-up synthetic biology, lipid membranes are the scaffold to create minimal cells and mimic reactions and processes at or across the membrane. In this context, we employ here a versatile microfluidic platform that enables precise positioning of nanoliter droplets with user-specified lipid compositions and in a defined pattern. Adjacent droplets make contact and form a droplet interface bilayer to simulate cellular membranes. Translocation of molecules across membranes are tailored by the addition of alpha-hemolysin to selected droplets. Moreover, we developed a protocol to analyze the translocation of non-fluorescent molecules between droplets with mass spectrometry. Our method is capable of automated formation of one- and two-dimensional droplet networks, which we demonstrated by connecting droplets containing different compound and enzyme solutions to perform translocation experiments and a multistep enzymatic cascade reaction across the droplet network. Our platform opens doors for creating complex artificial systems for bottom-up synthetic biology.

          Abstract

          Simon Bachler et al. present a new microfluidic platform to control the precise position and patterns of nanoliter droplets with various lipid materials. They show their platform enables monitoring of droplets and subsequent label-free mass spectrometry, which represents an important advance for the synthetic biology community.

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          Most cited references 52

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          Fiji is a distribution of the popular open-source software ImageJ focused on biological-image analysis. Fiji uses modern software engineering practices to combine powerful software libraries with a broad range of scripting languages to enable rapid prototyping of image-processing algorithms. Fiji facilitates the transformation of new algorithms into ImageJ plugins that can be shared with end users through an integrated update system. We propose Fiji as a platform for productive collaboration between computer science and biology research communities.
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            The Protein Data Bank.

            The Protein Data Bank (PDB; http://www.rcsb.org/pdb/ ) is the single worldwide archive of structural data of biological macromolecules. This paper describes the goals of the PDB, the systems in place for data deposition and access, how to obtain further information, and near-term plans for the future development of the resource.
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              A vesicle bioreactor as a step toward an artificial cell assembly.

              An Escherichia coli cell-free expression system is encapsulated in a phospholipid vesicle to build a cell-like bioreactor. Large unilamellar vesicles containing extracts are produced in an oil-extract emulsion. To form a bilayer the vesicles are transferred into a feeding solution that contains ribonucleotides and amino acids. Transcription-translation of plasmid genes is isolated in the vesicles. Whereas in bulk solution expression of enhanced GFP stops after 2 h, inside the vesicle permeability of the membrane to the feeding solution prolongs the expression for up to 5 h. To solve the energy and material limitations and increase the capacity of the reactor, the alpha-hemolysin pore protein from Staphylococcus aureus is expressed inside the vesicle to create a selective permeability for nutrients. The reactor can then sustain expression for up to 4 days with a protein production of 30 muM after 4 days. Oxygen diffusion and osmotic pressure are critical parameters to maintain expression and avoid vesicle burst.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                petra.dittrich@bsse.ethz.ch
                Journal
                Commun Biol
                Commun Biol
                Communications Biology
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2399-3642
                14 December 2020
                14 December 2020
                2020
                : 3
                Affiliations
                GRID grid.5801.c, ISNI 0000 0001 2156 2780, Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, , ETH Zurich, ; 4058 Basel, Switzerland
                Article
                1489
                10.1038/s42003-020-01489-w
                7736871
                33318607
                © The Author(s) 2020

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Funding
                Funded by: FundRef https://doi.org/10.13039/100010663, EC | EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation H2020 | H2020 Priority Excellent Science | H2020 European Research Council (H2020 Excellent Science - European Research Council);
                Award ID: Consolidator Grant No. 681587
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef https://doi.org/10.13039/501100001711, Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (Swiss National Science Foundation);
                Award ID: NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering
                Award Recipient :
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                © The Author(s) 2020

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