Phospholipid Membrane Formation Templated by Coacervate Droplets

Fatma Pir Cakmak, Allyson M. Marianelli, Christine D. Keating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We report the formation of coacervate-supported phospholipid membranes by hydrating a dried lipid film in the presence of coacervate droplets. Coacervate-supported membranes were characterized by fluorescence imaging, polarization, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching of labeled lipids, lipid quenching experiments, and solute uptake experiments. Our findings are consistent with the presence of lipid membranes around the coacervates, with many droplets fully coated by what appear to be continuous lipid bilayers. In contrast to traditional giant lipid vesicles formed by gentle hydration in the absence of coacervates, the coacervate-templated membrane vesicles are more uniform in size, shape, and apparent lamellarity. Due to their fully coacervate model cytoplasm, these simple artificial cells are macromolecularly crowded and can be easily pre-loaded with high concentrations of proteins or nucleic acids. Within the same population, in addition to coacervate droplets having intact lipid membrane coatings, other coacervate droplets are coated with membranes having defects or pores that permit solute entry, and some are coated with multilayered membranes. Membranes surrounding protein-based coacervate droplets provided protection from a protease added to the external solution. The simplicity of producing artificial cells having a coacervate model cytoplasm surrounded by a model membrane is at the same time interesting as a potential mechanism for prebiotic protocell formation and appealing for biotechnology. We anticipate that such structures could serve as a new type of model system for understanding interactions between intracellular phases and cell or organelle membranes, which are implicated in a growing number of processes ranging from neurotransmission to signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10366-10375
Number of pages10
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 31 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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