by Ye Chen, Jae Kyoung Kim, Andrew J. Hirning, Krešimir Josić, Matthew R. Bennett
"A challenge of synthetic biology is the creation of cooperative microbial systems that exhibit population-level behaviors. Such systems use cellular signaling mechanisms to regulate gene expression across multiple cell types. We describe the construction of a synthetic microbial consortium consisting of two distinct cell types—an “activator” strain and a “repressor” strain. These strains produced two orthogonal cell-signaling molecules that regulate gene expression within a synthetic circuit spanning both strains. The two strains generated emergent, population-level oscillations only when cultured together. Certain network topologies of the two-strain circuit were better at maintaining robust oscillations than others. The ability to program population-level dynamics through the genetic engineering of multiple cooperative strains points the way toward engineering complex synthetic tissues and organs with multiple cell types."
Since the 1970s technological advancements in the fields of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering have led to a dramatic reduction in both time and cost required for generating genomic mutations in a variety of organisms. The union of genomic editing machinery, DNA inkjet printers, and bioinformatics algorithms allows engineers to design a library of thousands of unique oligos as well as build and test these designs on a ∼2 months time-scale and at a cost of roughly ∼0.3 cents per base pair. The implications of these capabilities for a variety of fields are far-reaching, with potential impacts in defense, agricultural, human health, and environmental research. The explosion of synthetic biology applications over the past two decades have led many to draw parallels between biological engineering and the computer sciences. In this review, we highlight some important parallels between these fields and emphasize the importance of engineering design strategies.
Protein-protein interactions are fundamental to many biological processes. Yet the weak and transient non-covalent bonds that characterize most protein-protein interactions found in nature impose limits on many bioengineering experiments. Here a new class of genetically encodable peptide-protein pairs—isopeptag-N/pilin-N, isopeptag/pilin-C, and SpyTag-SpyCatcher—that interact via autocatalytic intermolecular isopeptide bond formation is described. Reactions between peptide-protein pairs are specific, robust, orthogonal, and able to proceed under most biologically relevant conditions both in vitro and in vivo. As fusion constructs they provide a handle on molecules of interest, both organic and inorganic, that can be grasped with an iron grip. Such stable interactions provide robust post-translational control over biological processes, and open new opportunities in synthetic biology for engineering programmable and self-assembling protein nanoarchitectures.
The Escapist Synthetic Biology Could Let Us Recycle Human Waste For Space Travel The Escapist One day, astronauts might recycle urine and carbon dioxide into highly necessary food and medicines for space missions.
Beer and Biosensors: join us for a fun and informative evening exploring sensors both genetic and electronic.
• "A (very) brief introduction to sensors"
• Beer Sensors (hands-on activity for everyone)
• "Sensors, beer and brewing: what do the results mean?"
Paul Grant and James Godman, University of Cambridge and Hop Back Brewery
The world's first functioning organism with an expanded DNA alphabet has now met another milestone in artificial life: making proteins that don't exist in nature.
The organism, a bacterium created by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, incorporates two synthetic DNA letters, called X and Y, along with the four natural ones, A, T, C and G. A team led by Floyd Romesberg published a study last year demonstrating that the organism, an engineered strain of E. coli, can function and replicate with the synthetic DNA.
Synthorx, a biotech startup that licensed the technology from Scripps, has now used the bacterium to produce proteins incorporating artificial amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. These are placed at precisely specified intervals along the protein sequence, obeying the code of the expanded DNA alphabet.
Synthetic biology is a recent scientific approach towards engineering biological systems from both pre-existing and novel parts. The aim is to introduce computational aided design approach in biology leading to rapid delivery of useful applications. Though the term reprogramming has been frequently used in the synthetic biology community, currently the technological sophistication only allows for a probabilistic approach instead of a precise engineering approach. Recently, several human health applications have emerged that suggest increased usage of synthetic biology approach in developing novel drugs. This mini review discusses recent translational developments in the field and tries to identify some of the upcoming future developments.
Extracellular electron transfer pathways allow certain bacteria to transfer energy between intracellular chemical energy stores and extracellular solids through redox reactions. Microorganisms containing these pathways, exoelectrogens, are a critical part of microbial electrochemical technologies that aim to impact applications in bioenergy, biosensing, and biocomputing. However, there are not yet any examples of economically viable microbial electrochemical technologies due to the limitations of naturally-occurring exoelectrogens. Here we first briefly summarize recent discoveries in understanding extracellular electron transfer pathways, then review in-depth the creation of customized and novel exoelectrogens for biotechnological applications. We analyze engineering efforts to increase current production in native exoelectrogens, which reveals that modulating certain processes within extracellular electron transfer are more effective than others. We also review efforts to create new exoelectrogens and highlight common challenges in this work. Lastly, we summarize work utilizing engineered exoelectrogens for biotechnological applications and the key obstacles to their future development. Fueled by the development of genetic tools, these approaches will continue to expand and genetically modified organisms will continue to improve the outlook for microbial electrochemical technologies.
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