A cell-free protein-producing gel

Nat Mater. 2009 May;8(5):432-7. doi: 10.1038/nmat2419. Epub 2009 Mar 29.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Biopolymers / chemistry
  • Cell-Free System / chemistry*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Proteins / chemical synthesis*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Biopolymers
  • Hydrogels
  • Proteins
  • DNA