A critical aspect of a synthetic minimal cell is expansion of the surrounding boundary layer. This layer should consist of phospholipids (mimics) as these molecules assemble into a bilayer, creating a functional barrier with specific phospholipid species that are essential for membrane related processes. As a first step towards synthetic cells, an in vitro phospholipid biosynthesis pathway has been constructed that utilizes fatty acids as precursors to produce a wide variety of phospholipid species, thereby driving membrane growth. This now needs to be developed further into a sustainable expanding system, meanwhile keeping simplicity in mind. The non-enzymatic synthesis of phospholipid-like molecules forms a realistic alternative for natural enzymatic-based pathways, that nowadays can even support functional membrane proteins. Eventually, coupling to in vitro transcription/translation is required, for which efficient mechanisms of insertion and folding of the involved membrane proteins need to be developed. Such an integrated system will form a suitable foundation of a synthetic minimal cell that eventually can be coupled to other cellular processes such as division.

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