Main content area

Mass Transport in Coacervate-Based Protocell Coated with Fatty Acid under Nonequilibrium Conditions

Jing, Hairong, Lin, Ya’nan, Chang, Haojing, Bai, Qingwen, Liang, Dehai
Langmuir 2019 v.35 no.16 pp. 5587-5593
biomimetics, droplets, electric field, enzymatic reactions, lysine, mass transfer, models, oleic acid, oligonucleotides, sodium, viscoelasticity
Construction of protocell models from prebiotically plausible components to mimic the basic features or functions of living cells is still a challenge. In this work, we prepare a hybrid protocell model by coating sodium oleate on the coacervate droplet constituted by poly(l-lysine) and oligonucleotide and investigate the transport of different molecules under electric field. Results show that sodium oleate forms a layered viscoelastic membrane on the droplet surface, which is selectively permeable to small, polar molecules, such as oligolysine. As the droplet is stimulated at 10 V cm–¹, the oleate membrane slips along the direction of electric field while maintaining its integrity. Most of the molecules are still excluded under such conditions. As repetitive cycles of vacuolization occur at 20 V cm–¹, all molecules are internalized and sequestrated in the droplet through their specific pathways except enzyme, which anchors in the oleate membrane and is immune to electric field. Cascade enzymatic reactions are then carried out, and the product generated from the membrane exhibits a time-dependent concentration gradient across the droplet. Our work makes a step toward the nonequilibrium functionalization of synthetic protocells capable of biomimetic operations.