Synthetic Biology

So far, every biological cell has been derived from another biological cell - in nature as well in the laboratory. Until today, it has not been possible to build a living cell from single functional units, which may be attributed to the enormous complexity of molecules and modules in all known biological systems.

Motivated by the success of reductionist approaches in the physical sciences, and their strive to derive models to describe natural phenomena from first principles, we are interested to explore the potential of these kinds of approaches in biology. Although the construction of a living cell ready to metabolize and self-replicate seems to be a topic of the far future, the bottom-up reconstitution of functional cellular modules in vitro is a fascinating goal by itself, driving our research since a couple of years.

In light of our work on protein-lipid interaction in cell and model membranes, it is particularly appealing to reconstitute machineries that transform membranes, to the degree that in the end, a controlled division of vesicular compartments can be achieved. This would be the minimal model system for cell division, a process of key relevance in biology, a simple molecular origin of which is however hardly understood.

Selected Publications

Vogel, S.K., Petrasek, Z., Heinemann, F., Schwille, P.
Myosin motors fragment and compact membrane-bound actin filaments
eLife 2013;2:e00116. [Epub 2013 Jan 8] 

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Vogel, SK., Schwille, P.
Minimal systems to study membrane-cytoskeleton interactions.
Curr Opin Biotechnol (2012) 23 758-765

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Schwille, P.
Bottom-up synthetic biology: engineering in a tinkerer's world.
Science 333(6047) (2011) 1252-4

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Loose, M., Kruse, K. & Schwille, P.
Protein self-organization: lessons from the min system.
Annu Rev Biophys (2011) 40 315-336

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Loose, M., Fischer-Friedrich, E., Herold, C., Kruse, K. & Schwille, P.
Min protein patterns emerge from rapid rebinding and membrane interaction of MinE.
Nat Struct Mol Biol (2011) 18 577-583

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Loose, M., Fischer-Friedrich, E., Ries, J., Kruse, K. & Schwille, P.
Spatial regulators for bacterial cell division self-organize into surface waves in vitro.
Science 320 (2008) 789-792

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