Mechanically responsive block copolymer nanoreactors inspired by the marine bioluminescence of dinoflagellates

Mastering biochemical reactions inside mechanically responsive vesicles

Project leader: N. Bruns

Team: A. Studart, C. Weder, E. Amstad, M. Mayer

One of the most breathtaking phenomena that can be observed in the oceans is the blue luminescence that shines from turbulent waters. This marine bioluminescence is caused by a family of unicellular plankton called dinoflagellates, which possess micron-sized reaction compartments (organelles) in which the enzyme luciferase and its substrate luciferin are encapsulated. These microorganisms respond to mechanical stimuli by creating an action potential that travels to the membrane of the organelles and induces the influx of protons into the micro-compartments. The resulting acidification activates the enzyme and causes the release of the substrate, which triggers the biochemical reaction that produces a flash of light. This project takes inspiration from this phenomenon and has the goal to develop mechanically switchable biocatalytic nanoreactors. These force-responsive block copolymer vesicles will allow an unprecedented control on biochemical reactions.

Main investigator

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