Predatory Behaviour in Synthetic Protocell Communities
Yan Qiao, Mei Li, Richard Booth, Stephen Mann*
Nat. Chem. 2017, 9, 110.
Recent progress in the chemical construction of colloidal objects comprising integrated biomimetic functions is paving the way towards rudimentary forms of artificial cell-like entities (protocells). Although several new types of protocells are currently available, the design of synthetic protocell communities and investigation of their collective behaviour has received little attention. We demonstrate an artificial form of predatory behaviour in a community of protease–containing coacervate microdroplets and protein–polymer microcapsules (proteinosomes) that interact via electrostatic binding. The coacervate microdroplets act as killer protocells for the obliteration of the target proteinosome population by protease-induced lysis of the protein–polymer membrane. As a consequence, the proteinosome payload (dextran, singlestranded DNA, platinum nanoparticles) is trafficked into the attached coacervate microdroplets, which are then released as functionally modified killer protocells capable of rekilling. Our results highlight opportunities for the development of interacting artificial protocell communities, and provide a strategy for inducing collective behaviour in soft matter microcompartmentalized systems and synthetic protocell consortia.