Designing biological compartmentalization

Trends Cell Biol. 2012 Dec;22(12):662-70. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2012.07.002. Epub 2012 Jul 27.


Intracellular organization is a key factor in cell metabolism. Cells have evolved various organizational systems to solve the challenges of toxic pathway intermediates, competing metabolic reactions, and slow turnover rates. Inspired by nature, synthetic biologists have utilized proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids to construct synthetic organizational systems that mimic natural systems. Many of these systems have been applied to metabolic pathways and shown to significantly increase the production of industrially and commercially important chemicals. Further engineering and characterization of synthetic organizational systems will allow us to better understand native cellular strategies of spatial organization. Here, we discuss recent advances and ongoing efforts in designing and characterizing synthetic compartmentalization systems to mimic natural strategies and increase metabolic yields of engineered pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Compartmentation*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Metabolic Engineering / methods
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Polymerization
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • Protein Transport
  • Synthetic Biology / methods*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Multiprotein Complexes