Dr. Hannes Mutschler

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Am Klopferspitz 18, 82152 Planegg, Germany


Title: Synthetic and prebiotic RNA worlds

The bottom-up assembly of artificial cell-like systems capable of heredity through genetic information transfer is one of the central challenges in synthetic biology. Our research aims at the construction of customizable and evolvable RNA-based genomes for minimal synthetic cells. A major prerequisite for these RNA-genomes is the ability to undergo recursive replication and evolution under cell-free conditions. To this end, we combine re-engineered viral RNA-genomes with in vitro translation systems and encapsulation in cell-like compartments. In the future, we will increase the autonomy and lifetime of synthetic replicators by encoding and evolving biosynthetic pathways and mechanisms for feedback regulation of gene expression. Apart from building replicators from evolved biological systems, we are also interested in the early molecular evolution of RNA during the Origin of Life and investigate different plausible scenarios leading to the emergence of early protocells.