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  • Journal article
    Gispert Contamina I, Hindley J, Pilkington C, Shree H, Barter L, Ces O, Elani Yet al., 2022,

    Stimuli-responsive vesicles as distributed artificial organelles for bacterial activation

    , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol: 119, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 0027-8424

    Intercellular communication is a hallmark of living systems. As such, engineering artificial cells that possess this behavior has been at the heart of activities in bottom-up synthetic biology. Communication between artificial and living cells has potential to confer novel capabilities to living organisms that could be exploited in biomedicine and biotechnology. However, most current approaches rely on the exchange of chemical signals that cannot be externally controlled. Here, we report two types of remote-controlled vesicle-based artificial organelles that translate physical inputs into chemical messages that lead to bacterial activation. Upon light or temperature stimulation, artificial cell membranes are activated, releasing signaling molecules that induce protein expression in Escherichia coli. This distributed approach differs from established methods for engineering stimuli-responsive bacteria. Here, artificial cells (as opposed to bacterial cells themselves) are the design unit. Having stimuli-responsive elements compartmentalized in artificial cells has potential applications in therapeutics, tissue engineering, and bioremediation. It will underpin the design of hybrid living/nonliving systems where temporal control over population interactions can be exerted.

  • Journal article
    Strutt R, Sheffield F, Barlow N, Flemming AJ, Harling JD, Law RV, Brooks NJ, Barter LMC, Ces Oet al., 2022,

    UV-DIB: label-free permeability determination using droplet interface bilayers

    , Lab on a Chip: miniaturisation for chemistry, physics, biology, materials science and bioengineering, Vol: 22, Pages: 972-985, ISSN: 1473-0189

    Simple diffusion of molecular entities through a phospholipid bilayer, is a phenomenon of great importance to the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. Current model lipid systems to probe this typically only employ fluorescence as a readout, thus limiting the range of assessable chemical matter that can be studied. We report a new technology platform, the UV-DIB, which facilitates label free measurement of small molecule translocation rates. This is based upon the coupling of droplet interface bilayer technology with implemented fiber optics to facilitate analysis via ultraviolet spectroscopy, in custom designed PMMA wells. To improve on current DIB technology, the platform was designed to be reusable, with a high sampling rate and a limit of UV detection in the low μM regime. We demonstrate the use of our system to quantify passive diffusion in a reproducible and rapid manner where the system was validated by investigating multiple permeants of varying physicochemical properties across a range of lipid interfaces, each demonstrating differing kinetics. Our system permits the interrogation of structural dependence on the permeation rate of a given compound. We present this ability from two structural perspectives, that of the membrane, and the permeant. We observed a reduction in permeability between pure DOPC and DPhPC interfaces, concurring with literature and demonstrating our ability to study the effects of lipid composition on permeability. In relation to the effects of permeant structure, our device facilitated the rank ordering of various compounds from the xanthine class of compounds, where the structure of each permeant differed by a single group alteration. We found that DIBs were stable up to 5% DMSO, a molecule often used to aid solubilisation of pharmaceutical and agrochemical compounds. The ability of our device to rank-order compounds with such minor structural differences provides a level of precision that is rarely seen in current, industr

  • Journal article
    Kalossaka LM, Mohammed AA, Sena G, Barter L, Myant Cet al., 2021,

    3D printing nanocomposite hydrogels with lattice vascular networks using stereolithography

    , JOURNAL OF MATERIALS RESEARCH, Vol: 36, Pages: 4249-4261, ISSN: 0884-2914
  • Journal article
    Kalossaka LM, Sena G, Barter LMC, Myant Cet al., 2021,

    Review: 3D printing hydrogels for the fabrication of soilless cultivation substrates

    , Applied Materials Today, Vol: 24, Pages: 1-16, ISSN: 2352-9407

    The use of hydrogels in academic research is fast evolving, and becoming more relevant to real life applications across varying fields. Additive Manufacturing (AM) has paved the way towards manufacturing hydrogel substrates with tailored properties which allow for new functionalities and applications. In this review, we introduce the idea of fabricating hydrogels as bioreceptive structures to be used as soilless cultivation substrates. AM is suggested as the fabrication process to achieve structures with features similar to soil. To evaluate this, we first review hydrogel fabrication processes, highlighting their key differences in terms of resolution, printing speed and build volume. Thus, we illustrate the examples from the literature where hydrogels were 3D printed with microorganisms such as algae. Finally, the challenges and future perspectives of printing soilless cultivation substrates are explored.

  • Journal article
    Kavanagh MA, Karlsson JK, Colburn JD, Barter LM, Gould IRet al., 2020,

    A TDDFT investigation of the Photosystem II reaction center: Insights into the precursors to charge separation

    , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol: 117, Pages: 19705-19712, ISSN: 0027-8424

    Photosystem II (PS II) captures solar energy and directs charge separation (CS) across the thylakoid membrane during photosynthesis. The highly oxidizing, charge-separated state generated within its reaction center (RC) drives water oxidation. Spectroscopic studies on PS II RCs are difficult to interpret due to large spectral congestion, necessitating modeling to elucidate key spectral features. Herein, we present results from time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) calculations on the largest PS II RC model reported to date. This model explicitly includes six RC chromophores and both the chlorin phytol chains and the amino acid residues <6 Å from the pigments’ porphyrin ring centers. Comparing our wild-type model results with calculations on mutant D1-His-198-Ala and D2-His-197-Ala RCs, our simulated absorption-difference spectra reproduce experimentally observed shifts in known chlorophyll absorption bands, demonstrating the predictive capabilities of this model. We find that inclusion of both nearby residues and phytol chains is necessary to reproduce this behavior. Our calculations provide a unique opportunity to observe the molecular orbitals that contribute to the excited states that are precursors to CS. Strikingly, we observe two high oscillator strength, low-lying states, in which molecular orbitals are delocalized over ChlD1 and PheD1 as well as one weaker oscillator strength state with molecular orbitals delocalized over the P chlorophylls. Both these configurations are a match for previously identified exciton–charge transfer states (ChlD1+PheD1−)* and (PD2+PD1−)*. Our results demonstrate the power of TDDFT as a tool, for studies of natural photosynthesis, or indeed future studies of artificial photosynthetic complexes.

  • Journal article
    Haylock S, Friddin M, Hindley J, Rodriguez E, Charalambous K, Booth P, Barter L, Ces Oet al., 2020,

    Membrane protein mediated bilayer communication in networks of droplet interface bilayers

    , Communications Chemistry, Vol: 3, ISSN: 2399-3669

    Droplet interface bilayers (DIBs) are model membranes formed between lipid monolayer-encased water droplets in oil. Compared to conventional methods, one of the most unique properties of DIBs is that they can be connected together to generate multi-layered ‘tissue-like’ networks, however introducing communication pathways between these compartments typically relies on water-soluble pores that are unable to gate. Here, we show that network connectivity can instead be achieved using a water-insoluble membrane protein by successfully reconstituting a chemically activatable mutant of the mechanosensitive channel MscL into a network of DIBs. Moreover, we also show how the small molecule activator can diffuse through an open channel and across the neighbouring droplet to activate MscL present in an adjacent bilayer. This demonstration of membrane protein mediated bilayer communication could prove key toward developing the next generation of responsive bilayer networks capable of defining information flow inside a minimal tissue.

  • Conference paper
    Kavanagh M, Gould I, Barter L, 2019,

    Excited states of the photosystem II reaction center

    , ACS Fall National Meeting and Exposition, Publisher: AMER CHEMICAL SOC, ISSN: 0065-7727
  • Journal article
    Hindley JW, Zheleva DG, Elani Y, Charalambous K, Barter LMC, Booth PJ, Bevan CL, Law RV, Ces Oet al., 2019,

    Building a synthetic mechanosensitive signaling pathway in compartmentalized artificial cells

    , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol: 116, Pages: 16711-16716, ISSN: 0027-8424

    To date reconstitution of one of the fundamental methods of cell communication, the signaling pathway, has been unaddressed in the bottom-up construction of artificial cells (ACs). Such developments are needed to increase the functionality and biomimicry of ACs, accelerating their translation and application in biotechnology. Here we report the construction of a de novo synthetic signaling pathway in microscale nested vesicles. Vesicle cell models respond to external calcium signals through activation of an intracellular interaction between phospholipase A2 and a mechanosensitive channel present in the internal membranes, triggering content mixing between compartments and controlling cell fluorescence. Emulsion-based approaches to AC construction are therefore shown to be ideal for the quick design and testing of new signaling networks and can readily include synthetic molecules difficult to introduce to biological cells. This work represents a foundation for the engineering of multi-compartment-spanning designer pathways that can be utilised to control downstream events inside an artificial cell, leading to the assembly of micromachines capable of sensing and responding to changes in their local environment.

  • Journal article
    Rains JGD, ODonnelly K, Oliver T, Woscholski R, Long NJ, Barter LMCet al., 2019,

    Bicarbonate inhibition of carbonic anhydrase mimics hinders catalytic efficiency: Elucidating the mechanism and gaining insight toward improving speed and efficiency

    , ACS Catalysis, Vol: 9, Pages: 1353-1365, ISSN: 2155-5435

    Carbonic anhydrase (CA) mimics are often studied with a focus on the hydration of CO2 for atmospheric carbon capture. Consequently, the reverse reaction (dehydration of HCO3–) has received minimal attention, so much so that the rate-limiting step of the dehydration reaction in CA mimics is currently unknown. The rate-limiting step of the hydration reaction is reported to be the bicarbonate-bound intermediate step, and thus is susceptible to product inhibition. It is not, however, clear if this inhibition is a consequence of an increase in the rate of the competing dehydration reaction or resulting from the strong affinity of bicarbonate to the mimic. To address this, insight into the dehydration reaction kinetics is needed. We therefore report the most comprehensive study of a CA mimic to date. The dehydration profile of the fastest small-molecule CA mimic, ZnL1S, was characterized, and consequently evidence for the rate-limiting step for the dehydration reaction was seen to be the bicarbonate-bound intermediate step, much like the hydration reaction. This experimental validation of the rate-limiting step was achieved through a variety of methods including NMR experiments and the effect of inhibitors, substrate concentration, and metal center on activity. With this understanding, an improvement in the favorability of the rate-limiting step was achieved, resulting in decreased bicarbonate inhibition. Thus, an increase in the mimic’s kcat for both reactions was observed, resulting in the largest rate constants of any small-molecule CA mimic reported to date (28 093 and 579 M–1 s–1 for hydration and dehydration, respectively). Enzyme-like kcat/km values were obtained for ZnL1S (5.9 × 105 M–1 s–1 for CO2 hydration), and notably there is only a difference of 2.5 orders of magnitude from the enzyme, the closest of any CA mimic reported in the literature. The results from this work can be applied to the development and improvement

  • Journal article
    Barlow N, Kusumaatmaja H, Salehi-Reyhani A, Brooks N, Barter LMC, Flemming AJ, Ces Oet al., 2018,

    Measuring bilayer surface energy and curvature in asymmetric droplet interface bilayers

    , Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Vol: 15, ISSN: 1742-5662

    For the past decade, droplet interface bilayers (DIBs) have had an increased prevalence in biomolecular and biophysical literature. However, much of the underlying physics of these platforms is poorly characterized. To further our understanding of these structures, lipid membrane tension on DIB membranes is measured by analysing the equilibrium shape of asymmetric DIBs. To this end, the morphology of DIBs is explored for the first time using confocal laser scanning fluorescence microscopy. The experimental results confirm that, in accordance with theory, the bilayer interface of a volume-asymmetric DIB is curved towards the smaller droplet and a lipid-asymmetric DIB is curved towards the droplet with the higher monolayer surface tension. Moreover, the DIB shape can be exploited to measure complex bilayer surface energies. In this study, the bilayer surface energy of DIBs composed of lipid mixtures of phosphatidylgylcerol (PG) and phosphatidylcholine are shown to increase linearly with PG concentrations up to 25%. The assumption that DIB bilayer area can be geometrically approximated as a spherical cap base is also tested, and it is discovered that the bilayer curvature is negligible for most practical symmetric or asymmetric DIB systems with respect to bilayer area.

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