Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany
Keynote Speaker for MaxSynBio
Katharina Landfester received her doctoral degree in 1995. After a postdoctoral stay at Lehigh University (US), she joined the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (Germany). From 2003 to 2008, she was full professor at Ulm University (Germany). Since 2008, she is director at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research. She was awarded the Reimund Stadler prize and the prize of the Dr. Hermann Schnell Foundation, followed by the Bruno Werdelmann Lecturer (2012) and the Bayer Lecturer (2014). She has published more than 650 papers in international journals, 30 reviews and holds more than 50 patents.
Keynote Presentation: Tuning reactions in hierarchical compartimentalized systems
Abstract: The aim of our research in MaxSynBio is focused on the detailed analysis and understanding of selected essential processes of life, via their modular reconstitution in minimal synthetic systems. The bottom- up approach in synthetic biology involves the engineering of synthetic cells by designing biological and chemical building blocks, which can be combined in order to mimic cellular functions. The first step for mimicking a living cell was the design of appropriate microcompartments featuring a multifunctional membrane. This is of particular interest since it allows for the selective attachment of different groups or molecules to the membrane. In this context, we have successfully shown modular approaches for large polymersomes with a tunable multifunctional surface. This generally-applicable multifunctionality allows for the covalent integration of various molecules into the membrane of a synthetic cell. Secondly, metabolic processes are of special interests, since they promise an interesting potential for industrial production processes. Metabolic reaction cascades and networks in biological cells are of impressive complexity. We therefore aim to reconstitute a fully-functional metabolic cascade, while reducing its complexity to a minimum. Inspired from features in nature, we have developed polymer-based nanocontainers with catalytic functions as building blocks for synthetic cells. Our achievements are the design of new modules: nanocontainers with semipermeable shells and loaded with enzymes, which enable enzymatic cascade reactions between subcompartments in confinement, coenzyme regeneration mimicking mitochondrial metabolisms, and, most impressively, controlling reactive oxygen species for autoxidation effects and therapeutics. Thirdly, in cells, complex chemical transformations can be viewed as the result of a large number of concerted interactions between functional modules, each responsible for different tasks required for the survival of the cell. This idea has inspired us to design functional modules that can perform simple biomimetic transformations using light as the trigger. Our functional modules were created by encapsulating bio-photocatalysts. Using this strategy, we have developed a functional module that regenerates nicotinamide adenine nucleotide coenzymes upon light irradiation. This opens the possibility for the creation of a library of modules that could be used together to achieve cell-like behavior. Fourthly, sturdy molecular chains called gradient polymers have long proved difficult to synthesize. Nature can make multi-segmented copolymers within living cells. A simple way to make them is by using compartimentalization. We sequestered two types of monomers in an emulsion, in which droplets of one monomer are dispersed throughout the second monomer. By exploiting the monomers’ different solubilities, we were able to successfully confine the polymerization inside nano-droplets of the emulsion. As that compound was gradually consumed, the change in concentration pulled ever-greater amounts of the other ingredient into the chains, creating a gradient effect.