Preparing Protein Producing Synthetic Cells using Cell Free Bacterial Extracts, Liposomes and Emulsion Transfer

* These authors contributed equally
This article has been accepted and is currently in production


The bottom-up assembly approach for construction of synthetic cells is an effective tool for isolating and investigating cellular processes in a cell mimicking environment. Furthermore, the development of cell-free expression systems has demonstrated the ability to reconstitute the protein production, transcription and translation processes (DNA→RNA→protein) in a controlled manner, harnessing synthetic biology. Here we describe a protocol for preparing a cell-free expression system, including the production of a potent bacterial lysate and encapsulating this lysate inside cholesterol-rich lipid-based giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) (i.e., stable liposomes), to form synthetic cells. The protocol describes the methods for preparing the components of the synthetic cells including the production of active bacterial lysates, followed by a detailed step-by-step preparation of the synthetic cells based on a water-in-oil emulsion transfer method. These facilitate the production of millions of synthetic cells in a simple and affordable manner with a high versatility for producing different types of proteins. The obtained synthetic cells can be used to investigate protein/RNA production and activity in an isolated environment, in directed evolution, and also as a controlled drug delivery platform for on-demand production of therapeutic proteins inside the body.