Inside cells, complex metabolic reactions are distributed across the modular compartments of organelles. Reactions in organelles have been recapitulated in vitro by reconstituting functional protein machineries into membrane systems. However, maintaining and controlling these reactions is challenging. Here we designed, built, and tested a switchable, light-harvesting organelle that provides both a sustainable energy source and a means of directing intravesicular reactions. An ATP (ATP) synthase and two photoconverters (plant-derived photosystem II and bacteria-derived proteorhodopsin) enable ATP synthesis. Independent optical activation of the two photoconverters allows dynamic control of ATP synthesis: red light facilitates and green light impedes ATP synthesis. We encapsulated the photosynthetic organelles in a giant vesicle to form a protocellular system and demonstrated optical control of two ATP-dependent reactions, carbon fixation and actin polymerization, with the latter altering outer vesicle morphology. Switchable photosynthetic organelles may enable the development of biomimetic vesicle systems with regulatory networks that exhibit homeostasis and complex cellular behaviors.

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