Reversible Social Self-Sorting of Colloidal Cell-Mimics with Blue Light Switchable Proteins

Toward the bottom-up assembly of synthetic cells from molecular building blocks, it is an ongoing challenge to assemble micrometer sized compartments that host different processes into precise multicompartmental assemblies, also called prototissues. The difficulty lies in controlling interactions between different compartments dynamically both in space and time, as these interactions determine how they organize with respect to each other and how they work together. In this study, we have been able to control the self-assembly and social self-sorting of four different types of colloids, which we use as a model for synthetic cells, into two separate families with visible light. For this purpose we used two photoswitchable protein pairs (iLID/Nano and nHagHigh/pMagHigh) that both reversibly heterodimerize upon blue light exposure and dissociate from each other in the dark. These photoswitchable proteins provide noninvasive, dynamic, and reversible remote control under biocompatible conditions over the self-assembly process with unprecedented spatial and temporal precision. In addition, each protein pair brings together specifically two different types of colloids. The orthogonality of the two protein pairs enables social self-sorting of a four component mixture into two distinct families of colloidal aggregates with controlled arrangements. These results will ultimately pave the way for the bottom-up assembly of multicompartment synthetic prototissues of a higher complexity, enabling us to control precisely and dynamically the organization of different compartments in space and time.