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Biological Chemistry

Lipid Fusion Modifies Cell Surfaces

Functionalized liposomes interact with cells to reengineer their surfaces to accept targeted reagents or for assembly into tissues

by Stu Borman
December 5, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 49

Chemists have devised a way to engineer cell surfaces by lipid fusion, a simple technique that involves mixing cells with tailored liposomes. In recent years, scientists have developed genetic and antibiotic engineering techniques to modify cell surfaces with bioorthogonal groups that don’t interfere with natural biomolecules. These groups can be used to better understand cell behavior, target reagents to specific cells, and assemble cells into tissues. Muhammad N. Yousaf of York University, in Toronto, and coworkers now use ketone- and oxyamine-derivatized lipids to form liposomes. When they add the liposomes to cells, the derivatized lipids become associated with the cell membranes (Bioconjugate Chem., DOI: 10.1021/bc200236m). The researchers quantified the added cell-surface groups with flow cytometry and combined the modified cells with one another to generate simple tissues by reacting ketones on some cells with oxyamines on others, forming oxime links. Because the derivatized lipids are easy to synthesize and are available commercially, the technique is both easy to carry out and inexpensive.

The ketone or oxyamine (shown) are fused through cell membranes, then comine to form tissue.
Credit: Adapted from Bioconjugate Chem.
Yousaf and coworkers incorporate ketones and oxyamines into cell surfaces by membrane fusion and then use the added groups to combine cells into tissues.


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