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Artificial cells and salad dressing
Date:2/18/2014

anco and the other researchers worked with a minimalistic artificial clock made with a soup-like mixture of DNA, RNA and proteins. An oil mixture was added to the oscillator mixture, and shaken to create an emulsion with thousands of water-in-oil droplets. Each droplet contained a copy of the oscillator mixture. Franco compared this simple emulsion preparation procedure to creating a salad dressing with oil and vinegar.

While emulsions are a common laboratory technique used to generate many small samples and run thousands of experiments in parallel, not many studies have looked at dynamic circuits like oscillators.

In the experiments outlined in the Nature Chemistry paper, the "blinking" droplets containing the oscillator were studied under a microscope, where the diverse behavior of amplitude and frequency was observed.

Through mathematical modeling, the researchers were able to attribute this diversity to uneven distribution of molecules inside each droplet, a phenomenon called "partitioning noise." This variability is a major challenge as well as an opportunity for the development of artificial cells. Similar experiments will allow scientists to optimize artificial molecular devices so they are minimally affected by partitioning noise.


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Contact: Sean Nealon
sean.nealon@ucr.edu
951-827-1287
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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