Actinosomes: Condensate-Templated Containers for Engineering Synthetic Cells

Ketan A. Ganar, Liza Leijten, Siddharth Deshpande*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Engineering synthetic cells has a broad appeal, from understanding living cells to designing novel biomaterials for therapeutics, biosensing, and hybrid interfaces. A key prerequisite to creating synthetic cells is a three-dimensional container capable of orchestrating biochemical reactions. In this study, we present an easy and effective technique to make cell-sized porous containers, coined actinosomes, using the interactions between biomolecular condensates and the actin cytoskeleton. This approach uses polypeptide/nucleoside triphosphate condensates and localizes actin monomers on their surface. By triggering actin polymerization and using osmotic gradients, the condensates are transformed into containers, with the boundary made up of actin filaments and polylysine polymers. We show that the guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-to-adenosine triphosphate (ATP) ratio is a crucial parameter for forming actinosomes: insufficient ATP prevents condensate dissolution, while excess ATP leads to undesired crumpling. Permeability studies reveal the porous surface of actinosomes, allowing small molecules to pass through while restricting bigger macromolecules within the interior. We show the functionality of actinosomes as bioreactors by carrying out in vitro protein translation within them. Actinosomes are a handy addition to the synthetic cell platform, with appealing properties like ease of production, inherent encapsulation capacity, and a potentially active surface to trigger signaling cascades and form multicellular assemblies, conceivably useful for biotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2869-2879
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022


  • actin cytoskeleton
  • biomolecular condensates
  • cell-free expression
  • liquid-liquid phase separation
  • Synthetic cells


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