Press release


A new PNAS article was published last week and you can find at the following link https://www.uniba.it/ateneo/rettorato/ufficio-stampa/comunicati-stampa/2021/cellule-artificiali

The original title of the work is “Chromatophores efficiently promote light-driven ATP synthesis and DNA transcription inside hybrid multicompartment artificial cells”, PNAS 2021, DOI 10.1073/pnas.2012170118. Autors: Altamura E., Albanese P., Marotta R., Milano F., Fiore M., Trotta M., Stano P., and Mavelli F.


The study, coordinated by the Department of Chemistry of the University of Bari Aldo Moro, saw the participation of Prof. Fabio Mavelli and Dr. Emiliano Altamura and reports important developments in the construction of photosynthetic "artificial cells" capable of converting light energy into chemical energy. The article was recently published by the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) and counts, in addition to the two universities already mentioned, the collaboration of the Prof. Pasquale Stano, of the University of Lecce, and of the Dr. Michele Fiore at the University of Lyon 1.


The construction of energetically autonomous artificial cells - through a bottom-up approach - represents one of the most ambitious goals in the field of Synthetic Biology, a frontier area of modern biology.


This work represents a further step forward in this line of research. The authors have shown how it is possible to adopt an engineering approach to the problem, extracting and reusing cellular components existing in nature, at the level of specific organelles. In fact, particular nanostructures (the “chromatophores”) capable of producing ATP - a molecule rich in energy - have been extracted from photosynthetic bacteria in a simple and effective way under infrared light radiation. The chromatophores were then encapsulated inside larger lipid vesicles, obtaining, as a final result, "artificial cells" that are able to carry out complex reactions, thanks to the continuous generation of ATP inside them, when subjected to illumination. To demonstrate the validity of this approach, the synthetic cells were engineered to synthesize messenger RNA from DNA (a key reaction of living cells). In principle, any other reaction that requires ATP now becomes easily achievable in artificial cells thanks to the use of chromatophores. These results will allow rapid progress towards the construction of more complex artificial cells, dedicated both to basic science and to potential biotechnological and biomedical applications.