Article: Out-of-equilibrium microcompartments for the bottom-up integration of metabolic functions
Self-sustined metabolic pathways in microcompartments are the corner-stone for living systems. From a technological viewpoint, such pathways are a mandatory prerequisite for the reliable design of artificial cells functioning out-of-equilibrium. Here we develop a microfluidic platform for the miniaturization and analysis of metabolic pathways in man-made microcompartments formed of water-in-oil droplets. In a modular approach, we integrate in the microcompartments a nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)-dependent enzymatic reaction and a NAD-regeneration module as a minimal metabolism. We show that the microcompartments sustain a metabolically active state until the substrate is fully consumed. Reversibly, the external addition of the substrate reboots the metabolic activity of the microcompartments back to an active state. We therefore control the metabolic state of thousands of independent monodisperse microcompartments, a step of relevance for the construction of large populations of metabolically active artificial cells.