Staff member publications
Wagner, Anna M., Quandt, Jonas, Söder, Dominik, Garay-Sarmiento, Manuela, Joseph, Anton, Petrovskii, Vladislav S., Witzdam, Lena, Hammoor, Thomas, Steitz, Philipp, Haraszti, Tamás, Potemkin, Igor I., Kostina, Nina Yu., Herrmann, Andreas, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, Cesar, (2022). Ionic Combisomes: A New Class of Biomimetic Vesicles to Fuse with Life Advanced Science 9, 2200617
The construction of biomembranes that faithfully capture the properties and dynamic functions of cell membranes remains a challenge in the development of synthetic cells and their application. Here a new concept for synthetic cell membranes based on the self-assembly of amphiphilic comb polymers into vesicles, termed ionic combisomes (i-combisomes) is introduced. These combs consist of a polyzwitterionic backbone to which hydrophobic tails are linked by electrostatic interactions. Using a range of microscopies and molecular simulations, the self-assembly of a library of combs in water is screened. It is discovered that the hydrophobic tails form the membrane's core and force the backbone into a rod conformation with nematic-like ordering confined to the interface with water. This particular organization resulted in membranes that combine the stability of classic polymersomes with the biomimetic thickness, flexibility, and lateral mobility of liposomes. Such unparalleled matching of biophysical properties and the ability to locally reconfigure the molecular topology of its constituents enable the harboring of functional components of natural membranes and fusion with living bacteria to “hijack” their periphery. This provides an almost inexhaustible palette to design the chemical and biological makeup of the i-combisomes membrane resulting in a powerful platform for fundamental studies and technological applications.