Photosynthetic artificial organelles sustain and control ATP-dependent reactions in a protocellular system

Keel Yong Lee, Sung Jin Park, Keon Ah Lee, Se Hwan Kim, Heeyeon Kim, Yasmine Meroz, L. Mahadevan, Kwang Hwan Jung, Tae Kyu Ahn, Kevin Kit Parker, Kwanwoo Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inside cells, complex metabolic reactions are distributed across the modular compartments of organelles. Reactions in organelles have been recapitulated in vitro by reconstituting functional protein machineries into membrane systems. However, maintaining and controlling these reactions is challenging. Here we designed, built, and tested a switchable, light-harvesting organelle that provides both a sustainable energy source and a means of directing intravesicular reactions. An ATP (ATP) synthase and two photoconverters (plant-derived photosystem II and bacteria-derived proteorhodopsin) enable ATP synthesis. Independent optical activation of the two photoconverters allows dynamic control of ATP synthesis: red light facilitates and green light impedes ATP synthesis. We encapsulated the photosynthetic organelles in a giant vesicle to form a protocellular system and demonstrated optical control of two ATP-dependent reactions, carbon fixation and actin polymerization, with the latter altering outer vesicle morphology. Switchable photosynthetic organelles may enable the development of biomimetic vesicle systems with regulatory networks that exhibit homeostasis and complex cellular behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-535
Number of pages6
JournalNature biotechnology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering


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