Biomimetic Vesicles with Designer Phospholipids Can Sense Environmental Redox Cues

28 December 2023, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Cell-like materials that sense environmental cues can serve as new-generation biosensors and help advance the understanding of intercellular communication. While top-down approaches typically require genetic engineering or complex logic circuits, bottom-up assembly of chemical building blocks to form protocell models remains to be a major challenge. Herein we describe giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) with biomimetic lipid membranes capable of sensing environmental redox cues. The GUVs employ activity-based sensing through designer phospholipids that are fluorescently activated under a specific reductive (hydrogen sulfide) or oxidative (hydrogen peroxide) condition. These synthetic phospholipids, derived from 1,2-dipalmitoyl-rac-glycero-3-phosphocholine, possess a head group with heterocyclic aromatic motifs and, thus, deviate significantly from the natural phosphocholine. Despite structural deviation in the head group, designer phospholipids (0.5–1.0 mol%) mixed with natural lipids can vesiculate, and the resulting GUVs (7–20 µm in diameter) remain intact after redox sensing. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations gave insight into how these lipids are positioned within the hydrophobic core of the membrane bilayer and at the membrane-water interface. This work provides a purely chemical method to investigate potential redox signaling and opens up new design opportunities for soft materials that mimic protocells.


synthetic lipids
MD simulation
protocell model

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information for Biomimetic Vesicles with Designer Phospholipids Can Sense Environmental Redox Cues
Information specific to chemicals and materials; methods and characterization for syntheses; method details for vesicle preparations; spectrophotometric measurements; and supplementary figures.


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.