Duration: 36 months

CoordinatorProf. Daniel Müller University of Technology Dresden (Germany)

Contact Person:

Prof. Daniel Müller
Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
Pfotenhauerstr. 108
01307 Dresden, Germany
e-mail: daniel.mueller[at]
tel: (+49) 351 463 40330
fax: (+49) 351 210 1089



  • Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen (Germany)
  •  Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
  •  University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
  •  University of Basel (Switzerland)
  • University of Berna (Switzerland)
  •  ETH Zürich (Switzerland)
  •  CSIC, Madrid (Spain)


Project Description:

The mission of NANOCELL is to engineer biomimetic molecular machineries of the cell as building blocks that can be robustly and flexibly assembled to nanocells with controllable functionality not found in nature. To approach this goal, we will take nature’s cellular machineries apart and explore their potential to reconstitute them in new ways. The synthetic ‘NANOCELL’ resembling a molecular factory is one strong vision that drives the project. In its first step NANOCELL will master the control of the following biomolecular machines developed by nature, (i) F1Fo-ATP synthases, (ii) ATP-driven nucleic acid translocating machines, (iii) ATP synthase based propellers, (iv) proton-driven drug, solute and peptide transporters, and (v) spectrally tuned light-driven proton pumps. Most of these machines have in common that either their structure and mechanism and/or their function have been characterized to unprecedented accuracy very recently, which bears the chance to move on now to this engineering approach. From a synthetic biology approach we will reconstitute these machines into stable synthetic vesicles. Proton gradients that either power biomolecular machines will be generated by spectrally tunable light-driven proton pumps bacterio- and proteorhodopsins. Short-term goals are to develop strategies to manipulate and engineer the individual biomolecular machines to be used as building blocks to establish a NANOCELL. Procedures for their reconstitution into synthetic vesicles building the frame of the future NANOCELL will be established. In the long-term, we intend to use several of these engineered building blocks to create complex NANOCELLS. With this approach of establishing engineered building blocks we can functionalize NANOCELLS to generate, for example, a proton-gradient that guides the uptake or release of drugs, peptides, DNA, or solutes or to physically move the NANOCELL. It is also thought to spectrally tune proton-gradients to synthesize ATP used for minimal metabolic processes within the NANOCELL.