Synthetic cells and organelles: compartmentalization strategies



The recent development of RNA replicating protocells and capsules that enclose complex biosynthetic cascade reactions are encouraging signs that we are gradually getting better at mastering the complexity of biological systems. The road to truly cellular compartments is still very long, but concrete progress is being made. Compartmentalization is a crucial natural methodology to enable control over biological processes occurring within the living cell. In fact, compartmentalization has been considered by some theories to be instrumental in the creation of life. With the advancement of chemical biology, artificial compartments that can mimic the cell as a whole, or that can be regarded as cell organelles, have recently received much attention. The membrane between the inner and outer environment of the compartment has to meet specific requirements, such as semi-permeability, to allow communication and molecular transport over the border. The membrane can either be built from natural constituents or from synthetic polymers, introducing robustness to the capsule.