Non-equilibrium steady states in supramolecular polymerization

Living systems use fuel-driven supramolecular polymers such as actin to control important cell functions. Fuel molecules like ATP are used to control when and where such polymers should assemble and disassemble. The cell supplies fresh ATP to the cytosol and removes waste products to sustain steady states. Artificial fuel-driven polymers have been developed recently, but keeping them in sustained non-equilibrium steady states (NESS) has proven challenging. Here we show a supramolecular polymer that can be kept in NESS, inside a membrane reactor where ATP is added and waste removed continuously. Assembly and disassembly of our polymer is regulated by phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, respectively. Waste products lead to inhibition, causing the reaction cycle to stop. Inside the membrane reactor, however, waste can be removed leading to long-lived NESS conditions. We anticipate that our approach to obtain NESS can be applied to other stimuli-responsive materials to achieve more life-like behaviour.

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