Programmable on-chip DNA compartments as artificial cells

Eyal Karzbrun,(1) Alexandra M. Tayar,(1) Vincent Noireaux,(2) Roy H. Bar-Ziv(1).
Department of Materials and Interfaces, Weizmann Institute of Science, (2) Department of Physics, University of Minnesota

The assembly of artificial cells capable of executing synthetic DNA programs has been an important goal for basic research and biotechnology. We assembled two-dimensional DNA compartments fabricated in silicon as artificial cells capable of metabolism, programmable protein synthesis, and communication. Metabolism is maintained by continuous diffusion of nutrients and products through a thin capillary, connecting protein synthesis in the DNA compartment with the environment. We programmed protein expression cycles, autoregulated protein levels, and a signaling expression gradient, equivalent to a morphogen, in an array of interconnected compartments at the scale of an embryo. Gene expression in the DNA compartment reveals a rich, dynamic system that is controlled by geometry, offering a means for studying biological networks outside a living cell.