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Light-powered CO2 fixation in a chloroplast mimic with natural and synthetic parts

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Science  08 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6491, pp. 649-654
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz6802

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Hybrid approach catches light

Plant chloroplasts enclose two major photosynthetic processes: light reactions, which generate the energy carriers adenosine triphosphate and reduced nicotinamide dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH), and dark reactions, which use these molecules to fix carbon dioxide and build biomass. Miller et al. appropriated natural components, thylakoid membranes from spinach, for the light reactions and showed that these could be coupled to a synthetic enzymatic cycle that fixes carbon dioxide within water-in-oil droplets. The composition of the droplets could be tuned and optimized and the metabolic activity monitored in real time by NADPH fluorescence (see the Perspective by Gaut and Adamala). These chloroplast-mimicking droplets bring together natural and synthetic components in a small space and are amenable to further functionalization to perform complex biosynthetic tasks.

Science, this issue p. 649; see also p. 587

Abstract

Nature integrates complex biosynthetic and energy-converting tasks within compartments such as chloroplasts and mitochondria. Chloroplasts convert light into chemical energy, driving carbon dioxide fixation. We used microfluidics to develop a chloroplast mimic by encapsulating and operating photosynthetic membranes in cell-sized droplets. These droplets can be energized by light to power enzymes or enzyme cascades and analyzed for their catalytic properties in multiplex and real time. We demonstrate how these microdroplets can be programmed and controlled by adjusting internal compositions and by using light as an external trigger. We showcase the capability of our platform by integrating the crotonyl–coenzyme A (CoA)/ethylmalonyl-CoA/hydroxybutyryl-CoA (CETCH) cycle, a synthetic network for carbon dioxide conversion, to create an artificial photosynthetic system that interfaces the natural and the synthetic biological worlds.

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