Bottom–Up Protocell Design: Gaining Insights in the Emergence of Complex Functions



All contemporary living cells are a collection of self-assembled molecular elements that by themselves are non-living but through the creation of a network exhibit the emergent properties of self-maintenance, self-reproduction, and evolution. Protocells are chemical systems that should mimic cell behavior and their emergent properties through the interactions of their components. For a functional protocell designed bottom-up, three fundamental elements are required: a compartment, a reaction network, and an information system. Even if the functions of protocell components are very simplified compared to those of modern cells, realizing a system with true inter-connection and inter-dependence of all the functions should lead to emergent properties. However, none of the currently studied systems have yet reached the threshold level necessary to be considered alive. This chapter will discuss the on-going research that aims at creating artificial cells assembled from a collection of smaller components, i.e., protocell systems from bottom-up designs.


Reaction Network Emergent Property Decanoic Acid Ruthenium Complex Artificial Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful for many fruitful discussion and suggestions from colleagues at the University of Southern Denmark and Los Alamos National Laboratory, where early stages of the systemic design described in this chapter were called Los Alamos Bug.

The work described in this chapter has been supported by the Danish National Research Foundation and by the University of Southern Denmark which jointly support the Center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT, Director Prof. S. Rasmussen) as well by the NASA Exobiology Program, grant # NNH08AI881 and by funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no. 249032 (MATCHIT), and from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under Grant Agreement no. 222422, ECCell—Electronic Chemical Cell (a project in the EU FP7-IST-FET Open Initiative).


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center of Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT), Department of Physics, Chemistry and PharmacyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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