FtsZ-Induced Shape Transformation of Coacervates

Federico Fanalista, Siddharth Deshpande, Anson Lau, Grzegorz Pawlik, Cees Dekker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, both the cellular and synthetic biology communities have expressed a strong interest in coacervates, membrane-less liquid droplets composed of densely packed multivalent molecules that form as a result of spontaneous phase separation. Here, it is studied how FtsZ, a protein that plays a key role in the bacterial division process, remodels coacervates made of polylysine (pLL) and guanosine triphosphate (GTP). It is shown that FtsZ strongly partitions at the surface of the coacervates and induces their disassembly due to the hydrolysis of GTP by FtsZ. Surprisingly, the coacervates are found to promote lateral interactions between FtsZ filaments, inducing the formation of an emanating network of FtsZ bundles that interconnect neighboring coacervates. Under mechanical stress, coacervates are shown to fracture, resulting in profound invaginations along their circumference. The results bring out the potential of coacervates for their use as membrane-free scaffolds for building synthetic cells as well as are possibly relevant for coacervation in prokaryotic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1800136
JournalAdvanced Biosystems
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • biointerface
  • coacervates
  • FtsZ
  • protein bundling
  • synthetic cell


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