Synthetic protocells to study cell membrane adhesion

Salvador Tomas (primary)
Biological Sciences
Kate Bowers (secondary)
Structural and Molecular Biology


Cell membrane adhesion is a key event in many cellular processes, but difficult to study in molecular detail in the context of a whole cell. The aim of this project is developing smart lipid vesicles-based protocells that attach to each other and to cells in response to chemical or physical stimuli. By using simple chemical receptors and ligands instead of the proteins responsible for cell adhesion, will be able to study in detail the adhesion process and derive a mathematical model describing it. The power of the model will be showcased by designing a vesicle that attaches selectively to a cell.


1.” Modulation of In-Membrane Receptor Clustering upon Binding of Multivalent Ligands”. A. Grochmal, E. Ferrero, L. Milanesi and S.Tomas J Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135 , 10172

2. “Mutual Modulation between Embedded Receptor Clustering and Ligand Binding in Lipid Membranes”. S.Tomas, L. Milanesi, Nature Chem. 2010, 2, 1077

3. “The trafficking of metal ion transporters of the Zrt‐ and Irt‐like protein family”. K. Bowers, S. K. S. Srai Traffic 2018, 19, 813

4. “Homotypic Vacuole Fusion in Yeast Requires Organelle Acidification and Not the V-ATPase Membrane Domain”. K. Bowers et al. Developmental Cell 2013, 27, 462

Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
Cell BiologyChemical Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BiophysicsChemistryGeneticsImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular BiologySimulation / Modelling