SMatCH — Miniaturizing and Integrating Metabolic processes in artificial microcompartments using microfluidics

Wed, Dec 9, 2020, 9:00 am to 10:00 am

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Self-sustained metabolic pathways in microcompartments are the corner-stone for living systems. From a technological viewpoint, such pathways are a mandatory prerequisite for the reliable design of artificial cells functioning out-of-equilibrium. We develop microfluidic platforms for the miniaturization and analysis of metabolic pathways in man-made compartments formed of water-in-oil droplets [1,2,3].

In a modular approach, we integrate in microcompartments biochemical modules serving as a minimal metabolic units. We show that the functionalized microcompartments sustain a metabolically active state until the substrate is fully consumed. Reversibly, the external addition of the substrate reboots the metabolic activity of the microcompartments back to an active state. We control the metabolic state of thousands of independent monodisperse microcompartments, a step of relevance for the construction of large populations of metabolically active artificial cells [3].

To go one step further, we show that photoresponsive systems can be integrated into man-made compartments together with artificial metabolic pathways for CO2 fixation [4]. Our microfluidic approach therefore enables the preparation of large controlled populations of droplets functioning as artificial chloroplasts. In the long run, these systems and approaches based on microfluidics should serve as a basis to construct artificial cell mimics from the bottom-up.

Recent Relevant References

[1] Schwille et al. MaxSynBio‐Avenues towards creating cells from the bottom up, Angewandte Chemie Int Ed 57:13382 (2018)

[2] Weiss et al. Sequential bottom-up assembly of mechanically stabilized synthetic cells by microfluidics, Nature Materials, 17:89 (2018)
[3] Beneyton et al. Out-of-equilibrium microcompartments for the bottom-up integration of metabolic functions, Nature Communications, 9:2391 (2018)
[4] Miller et al. Light-powered CO2 fixation in a chloroplast mimic with natural and synthetic parts, Science, 368, 6491 (2020)


Jean-Christophe Baret obtained his PhD from the University of Twente (NL) in 2005. After a post-doc at ISIS, Strasbourg (F), the institute of J.M. Lehn, he joined the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen (D) as an independent group leader. In 2013 he obtained an ERC Starting Grant to develop new microfluidic tools for micro-compartmentalization. He joined the University of Bordeaux (F) as a full professor in 2014 and was appointed Junior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France in 2016. He is the laureate of an ERC Proof of Concept grant which led to the creation of the company Emulseo launched in 2018. Emulseo develops formulations for industrial applications of the droplet-based microfluidics technology. He is a recognized expert in microfluidics, serving as Editor of Microfluidics and Nanofluidics (Springer-Nature) and as Advisory Board Member of Lab on a Chip (RSC). His research activities now focus on microfluidics for bottom-up synthetic biology and he currently coordinates the build-up of the new Research Program Frontiers of Life at the Univ. Bordeaux which regroups local activities in the fields related to synthetic biology from molecules to regenerative medicine.