Multivesicular droplets: a cell model system to study compartmentalised biochemical reactions†
Multivesicular vesicles (MVVs) are artificial liposomal structures widely used as a platform to study the compartmentalisation of cells and as a scaffold for artificial cell/protocell models. Current preparation techniques for MVVs, however, offer poor control on the size, lamellarity, and loading of inner lipid vesicles. Here, we introduce a microfluidic device for the production of multivesicular droplets (MVDs): a novel model system combining the ease of use and control of droplet microfluidics with the biological relevance of MVVs. We use a perfluorinated carrier phase with a biocompatible surfactant to generate monodisperse droplets of an aqueous giant unilamellar lipid vesicle suspension. The successful on-chip formation and stability of MVDs is verified through high-speed microscopy. For bright field or fluorescence microscopy inspection, the MVDs are trapped in an array where the integrity of both lipid vesicles and droplets is preserved for up to 15 minutes. Finally, we show a two-step enzymatic reaction that takes place across the lipid vesicle membranes; the second reaction step occurs in the vesicle's interior, where the enzyme is encapsulated, while both the substrate and fluorescent product permeate across the membrane. Our approach opens the possibility to mimic artificial organelles with optimised reaction parameters (pH, ions, etc.) in each compartment.