Article abstract

Nature Materials 8, 432 - 437 (2009)
Published online: 29 March 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmat2419

Subject Categories: Polymers | Biomedical materials

A cell-free protein-producing gel

Nokyoung Park1,2, Soong Ho Um1,2,3, Hisakage Funabashi1, Jianfeng Xu1,3 & Dan Luo1

Proteins are important biomaterials and are generally produced in living cells. Here, we show a novel DNA hydrogel that is capable of producing functional proteins without any living cells. This protein-producing gel (termed 'the P-gel system' or 'P-gel') consists of genes as part of the gel scaffolding. This is the first time that a hydrogel has been used to produce proteins. The efficiency was about 300 times higher than current, solution-based systems. In terms of volumetric yield, the P-gel produced up to 5 mg ml-1 of functional proteins. The mechanisms behind the high efficiency and yield include improved gene stability, higher local concentration and a faster enzyme turnover rate due to a closer proximity of genes. We have tested a total of 16 different P-gels and have successfully produced all 16 proteins including membrane and toxic proteins, demonstrating that the P-gel system can serve as a general protein production technology.

  1. Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-5701, USA
  2. These authors contributed equally to this work
  3. Present address: Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA (S.H.U.); Arkansas Bioscience Institute, Arkansas State University, State University, Arkansas 72467, USA (J.X.)

Correspondence to: Dan Luo1 e-mail:


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