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Life and Coordination-Complex Molecular Science Kurihara Group

Location: Yamate, No.3 Bldg. 3F east
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Artificial Cell, Origin of Life, Vesicle

A Supramolecular Chemical Approach to the Construction of Artificial Cells

Exploring the boundary between living and non-living matter is one of the most challenging problems for contemporary scientists. To understand the cell, which is considered the smallest unit of life, a plausible strategy is to synthesize an artificial cell by using a supramolecular chemical approach, because simple molecular assemblies at one time evolved to create the simple cell on prebiotic earth. As shown in figure below, the key elements of a cell are the compartment, information, and a catalyst (i.e., metabolism). We have attempted to construct a chemically based artificial cell endowed with these three elements.

In our laboratory, we attempted to construct two artificial cells by using giant vesicles (GVs) as the compartment. One, developed in collaboration with the Sugawara group (Kanagawa Univ.), is an artificial cell that can proliferate from generation to generation. Now, we have constructed a recursive vesicular artificial cell system with proliferation cycles. By using the vesicular transport system, the second generation GVs, which contain no PCR reagents after self-reproduction, can be replenished by fusing them with conveyer GVs bearing the PCR reagents by changing the pH of the dispersion. After the PCR reagents are replenished, the GV can self-reproduce again. This system could lead to an evolvable artificial cellular system. The other artificial cell contains a catalyst-producing system. The GV system can generate catalysts and membrane molecules by transforming their respective precursors, thereby facilitating the proliferation of the GVs with the produced catalyst.

We are now tackling the creation of artificial cells that mimic cellular dynamics, such as cytoskeleton formation, protein production in the cell.


Artificial cells generate new artificial cells adapted to the environment.

Selected Publications

  1. L. Sheng and K. Kurihara, "Transformation of oil droplets into giant vesicles," Chem. Commun.52, 7786-7789 (2016).
  2. 栗原顕輔 "分子が関わる人工細胞から生命を考える" 季刊生命誌 88 (2016).
  3. K. Kurihara, Y. Okura, M. Matsuo, T. Toyota, K. Suzuki and T. Sugawara, "A recursive vesicle-based model protocell with a primitive model cell cycle" Nature Commun., 6, 8352 (2015).
  4. Kurihara K., Tamura M., Shohda K., Toyota T., Suzuki K. & Sugawara T. Self-reproduction of supramolecular giant vesicles combined with the amplification of encapsulated DNA. Nature Chem.3, 775-781 (2011).