A self-organized synthetic morphogenic liposome responds with shape changes to local light cues
Reconstituting artificial proto-cells capable of transducing extracellular signals into cytoskeletal changes can reveal fundamental principles of how non-equilibrium phenomena in cellular signal transduction affect morphogenesis. Here, we generated a Synthetic Morphogenic Membrane System (SynMMS) by encapsulating a dynamic microtubule (MT) aster and a light-inducible signaling system driven by GTP/ATP chemical potential into cell-sized liposomes. Responding to light cues in analogy to morphogens, this biomimetic design embodies basic principles of localized Rho-GTPase signal transduction that generate an intracellular MT-regulator signaling gradient. Light-induced signaling promotes membrane-deforming growth of MT-filaments by dynamically elevating the membrane-proximal tubulin concentration. The resulting membrane deformations enable recursive coupling of the MT-aster with the signaling system, which generates global self-organized morphologies that reorganize towards local external cues in dependence on prior shape. SynMMS thereby signifies a step towards bio-inspired engineering of self-organized cellular morphogenesis.