CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Spatiotemporal Propagation of a Minimal Catalytic RNA Network in GUV Protocells by Temperature Cycling and Phase Separation

B. Peter 2023 Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.


Benedikt Peter, Antoine Levrier, Petra Schwille

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.


Compartmentalization is key to many cellular processes and a critical bottleneck of any minimal life approach. In cells, a complex chemistry is responsible for bringing together or separate biomolecules at the right place at the right time. Lipids, nucleic acids and proteins self-organize, thereby creating boundaries, interfaces and specialized microenvironments. Exploiting reversible RNA-based liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) inside giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs), we present an efficient system capable of propagating an RNA-based enzymatic reaction across a population of GUVs upon freezing-thawing (FT) temperature cycles. We report that compartmentalization in the condensed RNA-rich phase can accelerate such an enzymatic reaction. In the decondensed state, RNA substrates become homogeneously dispersed, enabling content exchange between vesicles during freeze-thawing. This work explores how a minimal reversible phase separation system in lipid vesicles could help to implement spatiotemporal control in cyclic processes, as required for minimal cells.