Understanding cell division in a minimal cell system – towards developing synthetic cells
Cells are often described as life’s building blocks, and yet they still hold mysteries. One way to find out more is to build a cell from scratch. In these cell-like lipid vesicles, synthetic biology researchers assemble a set of proteins involved in bacterial division to mimic the process artificially – including Min proteins (highlighted in purple) and FtsZ, a protein that helps to form contractile rings (green) around dividing E. coli. Repeating patterns of Min along the vesicles, help the FtsZ ring to jostle into place, like a wedding ring wiggled onto a finger (although 1000 times smaller). The rings begin to contract around the vesicles – during cytokinesis – the final stage of cell division – this would eventually tear real cells in two. With a promising approach to artificial division, the next challenge is recreating another engineering feat of the cell, DNA replication.
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