DNA-based communication in populations of synthetic protocells

A.H. Joesaar, S. Yang, B.W.A. Bögels, A.J. van der Linden, P.A. Pieters, Pavan Kumar, Neil Dachau, Andrew Phillips, Stephen Mann, T.F.A. de Greef (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

143 Citations (Scopus)
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Developing molecular communication platforms based on orthogonal communication channels is a crucial step towards engineering artificial multicellular systems. Here, we present a general and scalable platform entitled ‘biomolecular implementation of protocellular communication’ (BIO-PC) to engineer distributed multichannel molecular communication between populations of non-lipid semipermeable microcapsules. Our method leverages the modularity and scalability of enzyme-free DNA strand-displacement circuits to develop protocellular consortia that can sense, process and respond to DNA-based messages. We engineer a rich variety of biochemical communication devices capable of cascaded amplification, bidirectional communication and distributed computational operations. Encapsulating DNA strand-displacement circuits further allows their use in concentrated serum where non-compartmentalized DNA circuits cannot operate. BIO-PC enables reliable execution of distributed DNA-based molecular programs in biologically relevant environments and opens new directions in DNA computing and minimal cell technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Artificial Cells/cytology
  • Cell Communication
  • DNA/metabolism
  • Logic
  • Signal Transduction
  • Synthetic Biology/methods


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