(616a) Biomimetic Coacervate Environments for Protein Analysis

Perry, S. L., UMass Amherst
Leon, L., Argonne National Laboratory
Priftis, D., University of Chicago
Gardel, M. L., University of Chicago
Tirrell, M., University of Chicago

Living cells have evolved sophisticated intracellular organization strategies that are challenging to reproduce synthetically. Biomolecular function depends on both the structure of the molecule itself and the properties of the surrounding medium. The ability to simulate the in vivo environment and isolate biological networks for study in an artificial milieu without sacrificing the crowding, structure, and compartmentalization of a cellular environment, represent engineering challenges with tremendous potential to impact both biological studies and biomedical applications.

A major challenge in designing synthetic organelles and reconstituted in vivo microenvironments is maintaining both crowding and compartmentalization while controlling the available intermolecular interactions.  Emerging experience has shown that complex coacervates (electrostatically-driven liquid-liquid phase separation) utilizing biomolecules produces an effective biomimetic microenvironment.  Initial efforts are focused on understanding (i) the incorporation of various model proteins and biomolecules into coacervate phases, (ii) the stability of the encapsulated proteins, and (iii) how environmental factors regulate activity, as in the case of the dynamic self-assembly of F-actin.

*This work is supported by the University of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science program in Basic Energy Sciences and the Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, and the University of Chicago NSF-MRSEC.