Jump-starting life? Fundamental aspects of synthetic biology.
Bottom Line: This question lies at the core of understanding the cell as the smallest living unit.Although we are witnessing a golden era of the life sciences, we are ironically still far from giving a convincing answer to this question.In this short article, I argue why synthetic biology in conjunction with the quantitative sciences may provide us with new concepts and tools to address it.
Affiliation: Department of Cellular and Molecular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, 82152 Martinsried, Germany Schwille@biochem.mpg.de.Show MeSH
License 1 - License 2
Mentions: Most remarkably, this Min protein system can be demonstrated to represent the smallest possible set of biochemical agents for initiating self-organization and pattern formation (Loose et al., 2008), requiring two proteins, ATP as an energy source, and a membrane as a template to yield wave-like dynamic protein gradients on flat extended membranes. Introduced into cell-shaped compartments, the cellular oscillations could be reconstituted (Zieske and Schwille, 2013). Moreover, the bottom-up experiments clearly demonstrated how time-averaged gradients act as spatial cues to direct downstream processes (Zieske and Schwille, 2014). Specifically, proto-ring filaments of FtsZ, the primary constituent of the contractile Z ring, could be exclusively positioned in the middle of the synthetic compartment (Fig. 2). Although this is only the first, and by no means the crucial step toward reconstituting division of a membrane compartment based on protein self-assembly and self-organization, this shows the advantage of the approach of dissecting a phenomenon into simple functional modules, which can in principle be derived from any organism or even designed from scratch.
Affiliation: Department of Cellular and Molecular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, 82152 Martinsried, Germany Schwille@biochem.mpg.de.