Transmembrane signaling by a synthetic receptor in artificial cells

Ane Bretschneider Søgaard, Andreas Bøtker Pedersen, Kaja Borup Løvschall, Pere Monge, Josefine Hammer Jakobsen, Leila Džabbarova, Line Friis Nielsen, Sandra Stevanovic, Raoul Walther, Alexander N. Zelikin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Signal transduction across biological membranes is among the most important evolutionary achievements. Herein, for the design of artificial cells, we engineer fully synthetic receptors with the capacity of transmembrane signaling, using tools of chemistry. Our receptors exhibit similarity with their natural counterparts in having an exofacial ligand for signal capture, being membrane anchored, and featuring a releasable messenger molecule that performs enzyme activation as a downstream signaling event. The main difference from natural receptors is the mechanism of signal transduction, which is achieved using a self-immolative linker. The receptor scaffold is modular and can readily be re-designed to respond to diverse activation signals including biological or chemical stimuli. We demonstrate an artificial signaling cascade that achieves transmembrane enzyme activation, a hallmark of natural signaling receptors. Results of this work are relevant for engineering responsive artificial cells and interfacing them and/or biological counterparts in co-cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1646
JournalNature Communications
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Artificial Cells
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Membrane
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Artificial
  • Signal Transduction


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