Protocell model 62
The central dogma of FLiNT is that a minimal living protocell can be realised through the functional integration of just three components: a self-assembled soft-matter container, a chemical metabolism, and information carrying molecules. The container colocalizes the information molecules and the metabolism and provides the protocell with an genetic identitity and a boundary to the environment. The metabolism converts environmental ressources into the chemical constituents of comprising the protocell itself. This enables the protocell to grow and replicate itself. The information molecules are used to actively regulate the metabolism and hence the protocell division process.
In the protocell model shown above, a surfactant stabilized oil-droplet acts as the container. The information molecules are anchored to the container by a hydrophobic anchor. Between the anchor and the information molecule are a red or blue particle. These represent a light harvesting and a catalytic molecule, respectively, that model the metabolism used in the laboratory. When they are colocalized by being tethered to complimentary information molecules, the metabolic rate is maximised, and the metabolism acts by converting oil in the core into surfactant, hence driving the droplet to divide. Even though the model is quite primitive, it illustrates the complexity of integrating self-assembly, sequence information, and metabolic reactions in these materials.