Secondment to the Radboud University


Ying Zhou, NaMeS PhD student, took part in the research secondment at the Radboud University. During her secondment, Ying Zhou studied the biochemical reactions in synthetic cells with microfluidic technologies. Her work consisted of two projects: droplets immobilization and critical conditions for FtsZ filaments formation in droplets. The purpose of immobilizing the droplets was to study the kinetics of chemical reactions in the long term. As the picoliter droplets moved in the channel of the microfluidic device after encapsulation, the kinetics of the biochemical reaction within a single droplet could not be studied overnight using the fluorescence after bleaching (FRAP) method.

In the second project, the original plan was to study how the phase separation of FtsZ proteins would affect the kinetics of a biochemical reaction. However, without the presence of lipids in the oil phase of the droplet, phase separation of the FtsZ proteins could not be triggered. Instead, FtsZ protein accumulated with each other to form filaments without kinetics. Thus, the goal changed to study the critical conditions for FtsZ filaments formation in lipid-free droplets.

Overall, the second project found that lipids are crucial in triggering the phase separation of FtsZ proteins. Without lipids, FtsZ proteins will accumulate with each other to form filaments, but without dynamics.

In the future, to completely immobilize the droplets, except for chemical modification, it will be possible to use a device with a special structure to physically stop the movement of the droplets.


1 Feb.2020 - 31 Jan. 2021


Nijmegen, the Netherlands


Ying Zhou

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 711859.