Tian, L., Li, M., Liu, J., Patil, A. J., Drinkwater, B. W., & Mann, S. (2018). Nonequilibrium Spatiotemporal Sensing within Acoustically Patterned Two-Dimensional Protocell Arrays. ACS Central Science, 4(11), 1551–1558.
Acoustically trapped periodic arrays of horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-loaded poly(diallydimethylammonium chloride) / adenosine 5′-triphosphate coacervate microdroplet-based protocells exhibit a spatiotemporal biochemical response when exposed to a codiffusing mixture of substrate molecules (o-phenylenediamine (o-PD) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)) under nonequilibrium conditions. Unidirectional propagation of the chemical concentration gradients gives rise to time- and position-dependent fluorescence signal outputs from individual coacervate microdroplets, indicating that the organized protocell assembly can dynamically sense encoded information in the advancing reaction-diffusion front. The methodology is extended to arrays comprising spatially separated binary populations of HRP- or glucose oxidase-containing coacervate microdroplets to internally generate a H2O2 signal that chemically connects the two protocell communities via a concerted biochemical cascade reaction. Our results provide a step toward establishing a systematic approach to study dynamic interactions between organized protocell consortia and propagating reaction-diffusion gradients, and offer a new methodology for exploring the complexity of protocellular communication networks operating under nonequilibrium conditions.