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  • Journal article
    Trantidou T, Dekker L, Polizzi K, Ces O, Elani Yet al., 2018,

    Functionalizing cell-mimetic giant vesicles with encapsulated bacterial biosensors

    , Interface Focus, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2042-8901

    The design of vesicle microsystems as artificial cells (bottom-up synthetic biology) has traditionally relied on the incorporation of molecular components to impart functionality. These cell mimics have reduced capabilities compared with their engineered biological counterparts (top-down synthetic biology), as they lack the powerful metabolic and regulatory pathways associated with living systems. There is increasing scope for using whole intact cellular components as functional modules within artificial cells, as a route to increase the capabilities of artificial cells. In this feasibility study, we design and embed genetically engineered microbes (Escherichia coli) in a vesicle-based cell mimic and use them as biosensing modules for real-time monitoring of lactate in the external environment. Using this conceptual framework, the functionality of other microbial devices can be conferred into vesicle microsystems in the future, bridging the gap between bottom-up and top-down synthetic biology.

  • Journal article
    Zhang H, Salazar JD, Yaliraki SN, 2018,

    Proteins across scales through graph partitioning: application to the major peanut allergen Ara h 1

    , Journal of Complex Networks, Vol: 6, Pages: 679-692, ISSN: 2051-1310

    The analysis of community structure in complex networks has been given much attention recently, as it is hoped that the communities at various scales can affect or explain the global behaviour of the system. A plethora of community detection algorithms have been proposed, insightful yet often restricted by certain inherent resolutions. Proteins are multi-scale biomolecular machines with coupled structural organization across scales, which is linked to their function. To reveal this organization, we applied a recently developed multi-resolution method, Markov Stability, which is based on atomistic graph partitioning, along with theoretical mutagenesis that further allows for hot spot identification using Gaussian process regression. The methodology finds partitions of a graph without imposing a particular scale a priori and analyses the network in a computationally efficient way. Here, we show an application on peanut allergenicity, which despite extensive experimental studies that focus on epitopes, groups of atoms associated with allergenic reactions, remains poorly understood. We compare our results against available experiment data, and we further predict distal regulatory sites that may significantly alter protein dynamics.

  • Journal article
    Chatzimichail S, Supramaniam P, Ces O, Salehi-Reyhani Set al., 2018,

    Micropatterning of planar metal electrodes by vacuum filling microfluidic channel geometries

    , Scientific Reports, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2045-2322

    We present a simple, facile method to micropattern planar metal electrodes defined by the geometry of a microfluidic channel network template. By introducing aqueous solutions of metal into reversibly adhered PDMS devices by desiccation instead of flow, we are able to produce difficult to pattern “dead end” or discontinuous features with ease. We characterize electrodes fabricated using this method and perform electrical lysis of mammalian cancer cells and demonstrate their use as part of an antibody capture assay for GFP. Cell lysis in microwell arrays is achieved using the electrodes and the protein released is detected using an antibody microarray. We show how the template channels used as part of the workflow for patterning the electrodes may be produced using photolithography-free methods, such as laser micromachining and PDMS master moulding, and demonstrate how the use of an immiscible phase may be employed to create electrode spacings on the order of 25 – 50 μm, that overcome the current resolution limits of such methods. This work demonstrates how the rapid prototyping of electrodes for use in total analysis systems can be achieved on the bench with little or no need for centralized facilities.

  • Journal article
    De Vita E, Schuler P, Lovell S, Lohbeck J, Kullmann S, Rabinovich E, Sananes A, Hessling B, Hamon V, Papo N, Hess J, Tate EW, Gunkel N, Miller AKet al., 2018,

    Depsipeptides Featuring a Neutral P1 Are Potent Inhibitors of Kallikrein-Related Peptidase 6 with On-Target Cellular Activity

    , JOURNAL OF MEDICINAL CHEMISTRY, Vol: 61, Pages: 8859-8874, ISSN: 0022-2623
  • Journal article
    Holme MN, Rana S, Barriga H, Kauscher U, Brooks NJ, Stevens MMet al., 2018,

    A robust liposomal platform for direct colorimetric detection of sphingomyelinase enzyme and inhibitors

    , ACS Nano, Vol: 12, Pages: 8197-8207, ISSN: 1936-0851

    The enzyme sphingomyelinase (SMase) is an important biomarker for several diseases such as Niemann Pick’s, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and HIV. We present a two-component colorimetric SMase activity assay that is more sensitive and much faster than currently available commercial assays. Herein, SMase-triggered release of cysteine from a sphingomyelin (SM)-based liposome formulation with 60 mol % cholesterol causes gold nanoparticle (AuNP) aggregation, enabling colorimetric detection of SMase activities as low as 0.02 mU/mL, corresponding to 1.4 pM concentration. While the lipid composition offers a stable, nonleaky liposome platform with minimal background signal, high specificity toward SMase avoids cross-reactivity of other similar phospholipases. Notably, use of an SM-based liposome formulation accurately mimics the natural in vivo substrate: the cell membrane. We studied the physical rearrangement process of the lipid membrane during SMase-mediated hydrolysis of SM to ceramide using small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering. A change in lipid phase from a liquid to gel state bilayer with increasing concentration of ceramide accounts for the observed increase in membrane permeability and consequent release of encapsulated cysteine. We further demonstrated the effectiveness of the sensor in colorimetric screening of small-molecule drug candidates, paving the way for the identification of novel SMase inhibitors in minutes. Taken together, the simplicity, speed, sensitivity, and naked-eye readout of this assay offer huge potential in point-of-care diagnostics and high-throughput drug screening.

  • Journal article
    Hodges M, Barahona M, Yaliraki SN, 2018,

    Allostery and cooperativity in multimeric proteins: bond-to-bond propensities in ATCase

    , SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2045-2322
  • Journal article
    Pyle E, Kalli AC, Amillis S, Hall Z, Lau AM, Hanyaloglu AC, Diallinas G, Byrne B, Politis Aet al., 2018,

    Structural lipids enable the formation of Ffnctional oligomers of the eukaryotic purine symporter UapA

    , Cell Chemical Biology, Vol: 25, Pages: 840-848.e4, ISSN: 2451-9456

    The role of membrane lipids in modulating eukaryotic transporter assembly and function remains unclear. We investigated the effect of membrane lipids in the structure and transport activity of the purine transporter UapA from Aspergillus nidulans. We found that UapA exists mainly as a dimer and that two lipid molecules bind per UapA dimer. We identified three phospholipid classes that co-purified with UapA: phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), and phosphatidylinositol (PI). UapA delipidation caused dissociation of the dimer into monomers. Subsequent addition of PI or PE rescued the UapA dimer and allowed recovery of bound lipids, suggesting a central role of these lipids in stabilizing the dimer. Molecular dynamics simulations predicted a lipid binding site near the UapA dimer interface. Mutational analyses established that lipid binding at this site is essential for formation of functional UapA dimers. We propose that structural lipids have a central role in the formation of functional, dimeric UapA.

  • Journal article
    Chatzimichail S, Supramaniam P, Ces O, Salehi-Reyhani Set al., 2018,

    Counting proteins in single cells with addressable droplet microarrays

    , Jove-Journal of Visualized Experiments, Vol: 137, ISSN: 1940-087X

    Often cellular behaviour and cellular responses are analysed at the population level where the responses of many cells are pooled together as an average result masking the rich single cell behaviour within a complex population. Single cell protein detection and quantification technologies have made a remarkable impact in recent years. Here we describe a practical and flexible single cell analysis platform based on addressable droplet microarrays. This study describes how the absolute copy numbers of target proteins may be measured with single cell resolution. The tumour suppressor p53 is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer, with more than 50% of total cancer cases exhibiting a non-healthy p53 expression pattern. The protocol describes steps to create 10nL droplets within which single human cancer cells are isolated and the copy number of p53 protein is measured with single molecule resolution to precisely determine the variability in expression. The method may be applied to any cell type including primary material to determine the absolute copy number of any target proteins of interest.

  • Journal article
    Bolognesi G, Friddin MS, Salehi-Reyhani S, Barlow N, Brooks NJ, Ces O, Elani Yet al., 2018,

    Sculpting and fusing biomimetic vesicle networks using optical tweezers

    , Nature Communications, Vol: 9, ISSN: 2041-1723

    Constructing higher-order vesicle assemblies has discipline-spanning potential from responsive soft-matter materials to artificial cell networks in synthetic biology. This potential is ultimately derived from the ability to compartmentalise and order chemical species in space. To unlock such applications, spatial organisation of vesicles in relation to one another must be controlled, and techniques to deliver cargo to compartments developed. Herein, we use optical tweezers to assemble, reconfigure and dismantle networks of cell-sized vesicles that, in different experimental scenarios, we engineer to exhibit several interesting properties. Vesicles are connected through double-bilayer junctions formed via electrostatically controlled adhesion. Chemically distinct vesicles are linked across length scales, from several nanometres to hundreds of micrometres, by axon-like tethers. In the former regime, patterning membranes with proteins and nanoparticles facilitates material exchange between compartments and enables laser-triggered vesicle merging. This allows us to mix and dilute content, and to initiate protein expression by delivering biomolecular reaction components.

  • Journal article
    Karamdad K, Hindley J, Friddin MS, Bolognesi G, Law RV, Brooks NJ, Ces O, Elani Yet al., 2018,

    Engineering thermoresponsive phase separated vesicles formed via emulsion phase transfer as a content-release platform

    , Chemical Science, Vol: 9, Pages: 4851-4858, ISSN: 2041-6520

    Giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) are a well-established tool for the study of membrane biophysics and are increasingly used as artificial cell models and functional units in biotechnology. This trend is driven by the development of emulsion-based generation methods such as Emulsion Phase Transfer (EPT), which facilitates the encapsulation of almost any water-soluble compounds (including biomolecules) regardless of size or charge, is compatible with droplet microfluidics, and allows GUVs with asymmetric bilayers to be assembled. However, the ability to control the composition of membranes formed via EPT remains an open question; this is key as composition gives rise to an array of biophysical phenomena which can be used to add functionality to membranes. Here, we evaluate the use of GUVs constructed via this method as a platform for phase behaviour studies and take advantage of composition-dependent features to engineer thermally-responsive GUVs. For the first time, we generate ternary GUVs (DOPC/DPPC/cholesterol) using EPT, and by compensating for the lower cholesterol incorporation efficiencies, show that these possess the full range of phase behaviour displayed by electroformed GUVs. As a demonstration of the fine control afforded by this approach, we demonstrate release of dye and peptide cargo when ternary GUVs are heated through the immiscibility transition temperature, and show that release temperature can be tuned by changing vesicle composition. We show that GUVs can be individually addressed and release triggered using a laser beam. Our findings validate EPT as a suitable method for generating phase separated vesicles and provide a valuable proof-of-concept for engineering content release functionality into individually addressable vesicles, which could have a host of applications in the development of smart synthetic biosystems.

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