Triggered Polymersome Fusion

Stephen D. P. Fielden, Matthew J. Derry, Alisha J. Miller, Paul D. Topham, Rachel K. O’Reilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The contents of biological cells are retained within compartments formed of phospholipid membranes. The movement of material within and between cells is often mediated by the fusion of phospholipid membranes, which allows mixing of contents or excretion of material into the surrounding environment. Biological membrane fusion is a highly regulated process that is catalyzed by proteins and often triggered by cellular signaling. In contrast, the controlled fusion of polymer-based membranes is largely unexplored, despite the potential application of this process in nanomedicine, smart materials, and reagent trafficking. Here, we demonstrate triggered polymersome fusion. Out-of-equilibrium polymersomes were formed by ring-opening metathesis polymerization-induced self-assembly and persist until a specific chemical signal (pH change) triggers their fusion. Characterization of polymersomes was performed by a variety of techniques, including dynamic light scattering, dry-state/cryogenic-transmission electron microscopy, and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). The fusion process was followed by time-resolved SAXS analysis. Developing elementary methods of communication between polymersomes, such as fusion, will prove essential for emulating life-like behaviors in synthetic nanotechnology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5824-5833
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)

Funding Information:
We thank the University of Birmingham and ERC (grant 615142) for funding. S.D.P.F. thanks the Leverhulme Trust for an Early Career Fellowship (ECF-2021-240).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.


  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanotechnology
  • Polymers/chemistry
  • Scattering, Small Angle
  • X-Ray Diffraction


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