Special Issue "Membranous and Membraneless Interfaces—Origins of Artificial Cellular Complexity"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2021.
Interests: origins of life; synthetic biology; artificial life; synthetic cells; drug delivery; bio-chem-ICTs; autopoiesis and cognition
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Living cell architecture is based on the concept of micro-compartmentation at different hierarchical levels. Cells themselves are self-bounded compartments, limited by a lipid membrane; eukaryotic cells have internal membrane-bound organelles dedicated to specific cellular functions, such as the cell nucleus, mitochondria and chloroplasts, the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi apparatus, as well as endosomes, lysosomes, etc. Moreover, membraneless compartments are currently under intense investigation in all types of cells. Compartments imply confinement and chemical gradients, and thus the non-homogeneous distribution of chemical species. Ultimately, compartmentation sustains fundamental processes for life maintenance, regulation, and information processing.
For decades, such complicated colloidal fine structures have attracted scientific attention. In addition to descriptive investigations, a bottom-up (constructive, synthetic) approach has recently emerged, often recognized within the bottom-up branch of Synthetic Biology.
Several biofunctions (in whole or in part) have been reconstituted in vesicles, usually—but not uniquely—made of lipids. Membraneless organelles have been recently featured thanks to experiments on liquid/liquid phase separation (LLPS) occurring in highly crowded solutions. Microdroplets made of hydrophilic polymer systems, similar to the PEG/dextran aqueous two-phase systems (ATPSs), are commonly used for modeling membraneless compartments. Various types of coacervates have shown complex cell-like behavior under several experimental conditions.
This Special Issue aims at collecting the most recent studies on artificial systems based on different types of compartmentalization. The final goal is the understanding of inter-cellular and intra-cellular mechanisms that contribute to the development of cellular complexity, revealing “emergent” properties occurring in cell and protocell systems. Biological meanings of interfaces and compartmentalization, set by not only membranous but also membraneless boundaries, will be discussed by viewing the results of theoretical consideration, wet experiments and plausible hypotheses based on artificial cell systems, such as membrane vesicles (liposomes), microemulsion droplets, and membraneless microdroplets emerging upon the micro-phase separation of the aqueous binary or multi-component (bio)polymer systems. These are considered to emerge as conventional and brand-new microstructures that assume intracellular environments highly crowded with biomacromolecules. The Special Issue also includes research presentations on related experimental/theoretical investigations; thus, let us think deeply about how (proto)cells could emerge as molecular microcompartment systems that developed their own interfaces.
We would like to elicit the submission of articles (full articles, reviews, etc.) related to the broad subject of membrane and membraneless microcompartments, their physico-chemical features, their use as cell or organellae models and, in general, about the peculiar characteristics of compartment architectures. All types of approaches are welcome (experimental, theoretical, conceptual, numerical simulations, etc.).
We look forward to receiving your best contributions and assembling a high-quality Special Issue.
Prof. Dr. Pasquale Stano
Prof. Dr. Kanta Tsumoto
Manuscript Submission Information
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- aqueous two-phase systems
- artificial cells
- liquid/liquid phase separation
- synthetic biology
- synthetic cells