NEONUCLEI: Self-assembly of snthetic nuclei: key modules for semibiotic chemosynthetic systems

Duration:48 months

Coordinator: University of Southampton (United Kingdom)

Contact Person:

Prof. George Attard
School of Chemistry
University of Southampton
University Road, Highfield
Southampton S040 0RE, United Kingdom
e-mail: gza[at]
tel: +44 23 80 59 30 19
fax: +44 23 80 59 37 81


  • Lund University (Sweden)
  • Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)
  • University of Coimbra (Portugal)
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Germany)


Project Description:

NEONUCLEI will develop transcription-competent synthetic analogues of cell nuclei. These particles, termed neonuclei, will be obtained through self-assembly/organisation in mixtures of DNA, macromolecules (or nanoparticles), and lipids. The composition of the neonuclei will be chosen to produce particles with internal nano-architectures capable of sustaining gene transcription upon the addition of transcription factors. The DNA of the neonuclei will contain a gene cluster (or tandem repeats of the same gene). The genes will be separated by sequences designed to induce DNA compaction in response to specific chemical or physical stimuli. This will be exploited to establish non-biological control over the transcription of parts, or all, of the DNA. These control sequences offer the opportunity for multiple transcription control strategies and provide the capability of implementing temporally co-ordinated synthesis of multiple gene products. Neonuclei represent a key enabling step in the realisation of semi-biotic systems: these are systems and devices that combine synthetic non-natural functional systems with systems of biological origin. The neonuclei will be integrated with biological systems, or with isolated components, to produce novel semi-biotic devices capable of the controlled in situ synthesis of complex bio-molecules on demand.

(source: Cordis Nest Pathfinder projects 2003-2006)