Protocells - Designs for Life

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Origin of Life".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2014) | Viewed by 185013

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
Chemistry Department, University of Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70124 Bari, Italy
Interests: giant lipid vesicles; light transduction; compartimentalized chemical reacting systems; stochastic effects
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Science Department, University Roma Tre, Viale G. Marconi 446, 00146 Rome
Interests: origins of life; synthetic biology; artificial life; synthetic cells; drug delivery; bio-chem-ICTs

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last few decades, the study of liposome-based minimal cell models has gained prominence in an interdisciplinary field concerning the origins of life and synthetic biology. These models have stimulated, and continue to stimulate, a large number of scientists, whose contributions are complementary.
From an experimental point of view, several approaches are currently under scrutiny, from the semi-synthetic cell model, to one that is strictly prebiotic, to the fully synthetic one. Despite the apparent diversity in this research field, recent efforts and discoveries have collectively contributed to increasing our knowledge of the physico-chemical conditions that promoted the transition from non-living to living matter; this knowledge sheds light on the origin of early cells on earth and at the same time, enables novel advancements in synthetic cell technology that might be useful for applicative research.
On the other hand, the structure of these cell model systems, whose complexity is sufficient for displaying emergent properties (but at the same time is “minimal”), can also be studied via detailed in silico models with both deterministic and stochastic approaches. These computational studies, especially when based on realistic hypotheses or on parameters inferred by experimental data, allow for the exploration of dynamical behaviors that can be difficult to investigate experimentally. The studies can also be useful for elucidating the effects of reaction compartmentalization and the rule of random fluctuations on protocell population dynamics.
Altogether, in silico and in vitro investigations are paving the way to a novel research arena that appears to be both very rich (thanks to its intrinsic interdisciplinary character) and promising (because only via synthetic/constructive approaches is it possible to enquire about the features of simple, early cells). This approach also stimulates more theoretical considerations with respect to intriguing questions, such as “what is life?” and further supports abiogenesis as the best theoretical framework, from a scientific viewpoint, for understanding the emergence of living systems on Earth.
Therefore, the study of minimal cell models is now an exciting multidisciplinary area of research mainly aimed at identifying the physico-chemical constraints (or unexpected and helpful emerging features) that are pertinent to the organization of dynamic chemical networks inside micro-compartments. This Special Issue covers all aspects of minimal cell models(i.e., experimental and computational models). The submission of scientific perspectives, comprehensive reviews or research articles is most welcome.

Prof. Dr. Fabio Mavelli
Dr. Pasquale Stano
Guest Editors

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  • artificial cells
  • autopoiesis
  • cell-free systems
  • emergence of life
  • minimal cells
  • origin of life
  • protocells
  • random fluctuations effect
  • stochastic simulations

Published Papers (18 papers)

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477 KiB  
Protocells Models in Origin of Life and Synthetic Biology
Life 2015, 5(4), 1700-1702; - 8 Dec 2015
328 KiB  
Current Ideas about Prebiological Compartmentalization
Life 2015, 5(2), 1239-1263; - 10 Apr 2015
1156 KiB  
Engineering Protocells: Prospects for Self-Assembly and Nanoscale Production-Lines
Life 2015, 5(2), 1019-1053; - 25 Mar 2015
2953 KiB  
Physical Routes to Primitive Cells: An Experimental Model Based on the Spontaneous Entrapment of Enzymes inside Micrometer-Sized Liposomes
Life 2015, 5(1), 969-996; - 18 Mar 2015
1643 KiB  
Coupled Phases and Combinatorial Selection in Fluctuating Hydrothermal Pools: A Scenario to Guide Experimental Approaches to the Origin of Cellular Life
Life 2015, 5(1), 872-887; - 13 Mar 2015
6411 KiB  
From Vesicles to Protocells: The Roles of Amphiphilic Molecules
Life 2015, 5(1), 651-675; - 2 Mar 2015
768 KiB  
Short Note
Does DNA Exert an Active Role in Generating Cell-Sized Spheres in an Aqueous Solution with a Crowding Binary Polymer?
Life 2015, 5(1), 459-466; - 9 Feb 2015
455 KiB  
Concept Paper
Protocells: At the Interface of Life and Non-Life
Life 2015, 5(1), 447-458; - 9 Feb 2015
1455 KiB  
Nanoporous Silica-Based Protocells at Multiple Scales for Designs of Life and Nanomedicine
Life 2015, 5(1), 214-229; - 19 Jan 2015
1444 KiB  
Emergent Chemical Behavior in Variable-Volume Protocells
Life 2015, 5(1), 181-211; - 13 Jan 2015
3162 KiB  
Synthetic Biology: A Bridge between Artificial and Natural Cells
Life 2014, 4(4), 1092-1116; - 19 Dec 2014
539 KiB  
Droplets: Unconventional Protocell Model with Life-Like Dynamics and Room to Grow
Life 2014, 4(4), 1038-1049; - 17 Dec 2014
1534 KiB  
Reconciling Ligase Ribozyme Activity with Fatty Acid Vesicle Stability
Life 2014, 4(4), 929-943; - 11 Dec 2014
536 KiB  
Toward Spatially Regulated Division of Protocells: Insights into the E. coli Min System from in Vitro Studies
Life 2014, 4(4), 915-928; - 11 Dec 2014
683 KiB  
Growth and Division in a Dynamic Protocell Model
Life 2014, 4(4), 837-864; - 3 Dec 2014
2220 KiB  
Synergism and Mutualism in Non-Enzymatic RNA Polymerization
Life 2014, 4(4), 598-620; - 3 Nov 2014
1501 KiB  
Compartmentalization and Cell Division through Molecular Discreteness and Crowding in a Catalytic Reaction Network
Life 2014, 4(4), 586-597; - 29 Oct 2014
7611 KiB  
Designing with Protocells: Applications of a Novel Technical Platform
Life 2014, 4(3), 457-490; - 5 Sep 2014
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