Spatiotemporal Propagation of a Minimal Catalytic RNA Network in GUV Protocells by Temperature Cycling and Phase Separation
Benedikt Peter, Antoine Levrier, Petra Schwille
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.202218507
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.