Building protein networks in synthetic systems from the bottom-up

Jiyoung Shim, Chuqing Zhou, Ting Gong, Dasha Aleksandra Iserlis, Hamad Abdullah Linjawi, Matthew Wong, Tingrui Pan, Cheemeng Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The recent development of synthetic biology has expanded the capability to design and construct protein networks outside of living cells from the bottom-up. The new capability has enabled us to assemble protein networks for the basic study of cellular pathways, expression of proteins outside cells, and building tissue materials. Furthermore, the integration of natural and synthetic protein networks has enabled new functions of synthetic or artificial cells. Here, we review the underlying technologies for assembling protein networks in liposomes, water-in-oil droplets, and biomaterials from the bottom-up. We cover the recent applications of protein networks in biological transduction pathways, energy self-supplying systems, cellular environmental sensors, and cell-free protein scaffolds. We also review new technologies for assembling protein networks, including multiprotein purification methods, high-throughput assay screen platforms, and controllable fusion of liposomes. Finally, we present existing challenges towards building protein networks that rival the complexity and dynamic response akin to natural systems. This review addresses the gap in our understanding of synthetic and natural protein networks. It presents a vision towards developing smart and resilient protein networks for various biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107753
JournalBiotechnology Advances
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • Artificial cell
  • Automation
  • Bottom-up
  • Cell-free
  • Encapsulation
  • Genetic circuit
  • High throughput
  • In vitro
  • Protein network
  • Protein purification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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