Light-Powered Reactivation of Flagella and Contraction of Microtubule Networks: Toward Building an Artificial Cell

Raheel Ahmad, Christin Kleineberg, Vahid Nasirimarekani, Yu Jung Su, Samira Goli Pozveh, Albert Bae, Kai Sundmacher, Eberhard Bodenschatz, Isabella Guido, Tanja Vidaković-Koch, Azam Gholami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Artificial systems capable of self-sustained movement with self-sufficient energy are of high interest with respect to the development of many challenging applications, including medical treatments, but also technical applications. The bottom-up assembly of such systems in the context of synthetic biology is still a challenging task. In this work, we demonstrate the biocompatibility and efficiency of an artificial light-driven energy module and a motility functional unit by integrating light-switchable photosynthetic vesicles with demembranated flagella. The flagellar propulsion is coupled to the beating frequency, and dynamic ATP synthesis in response to illumination allows us to control beating frequency of flagella in a light-dependent manner. In addition, we verified the functionality of light-powered synthetic vesicles in in vitro motility assays by encapsulating microtubules assembled with force-generating kinesin-1 motors and the energy module to investigate the dynamics of a contractile filamentous network in cell-like compartments by optical stimulation. Integration of this photosynthetic system with various biological building blocks such as cytoskeletal filaments and molecular motors may contribute to the bottom-up synthesis of artificial cells that are able to undergo motor-driven morphological deformations and exhibit directional motion in a light-controllable fashion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1490-1504
Number of pages15
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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