ResearchPad - synthetic-biology https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Interfacing gene circuits with microelectronics through engineered population dynamics]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_15996 While there has been impressive progress connecting bacterial behavior with electrodes, an attractive observation to facilitate advances in synthetic biology is that the growth of a bacterial colony can be determined from impedance changes over time. Here, we interface synthetic biology with microelectronics through engineered population dynamics that regulate the accumulation of charged metabolites. We demonstrate electrical detection of the bacterial response to heavy metals via a population control circuit. We then implement this approach to a synchronized genetic oscillator where we obtain an oscillatory impedance profile from engineered bacteria. We lastly miniaturize an array of electrodes to form “bacterial integrated circuits” and demonstrate its applicability as an interface with genetic circuits. This approach paves the way for new advances in synthetic biology, analytical chemistry, and microelectronic technologies.

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<![CDATA[Dynamic Fas signaling network regulates neural stem cell proliferation and memory enhancement]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_15392 Activation of Fas (CD95) is observed in various neurological disorders and can lead to both apoptosis and prosurvival outputs, yet how Fas signaling operates dynamically in the hippocampus is poorly understood. The optogenetic dissection of a signaling network can yield molecular-level explanations for cellular responses or fates, including the signaling dysfunctions seen in numerous diseases. Here, we developed an optogenetically activatable Fas that works in a physiologically plausible manner. Fas activation in immature neurons of the dentate gyrus triggered mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation and subsequent brain-derived neurotrophic factor secretion. Phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (Erk) in neural stem cells was induced under prolonged Fas activation. Repetitive activation of this signaling network yielded proliferation of neural stem cells and a transient increase in spatial working memory in mice. Our results demonstrate a novel Fas signaling network in the dentate gyrus and illuminate its consequences for adult neurogenesis and memory enhancement.

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<![CDATA[Autonomous synthesis and assembly of a ribosomal subunit on a chip]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_15350 Ribosome biogenesis is an efficient and complex assembly process that has not been reconstructed outside a living cell so far, yet is the most critical step for establishing a self-replicating artificial cell. We recreated the biogenesis of Escherichia coli’s small ribosomal subunit by synthesizing and capturing all its ribosomal proteins and RNA on a chip. Surface confinement provided favorable conditions for autonomous stepwise assembly of new subunits, spatially segregated from original intact ribosomes. Our real-time fluorescence measurements revealed hierarchal assembly, cooperative interactions, unstable intermediates, and specific binding to large ribosomal subunits. Using only synthetic genes, our methodology is a crucial step toward creation of a self-replicating artificial cell and a general strategy for the mechanistic investigation of diverse multicomponent macromolecular machines.

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<![CDATA[When two are better than one: Modeling the mechanisms of antibody mixtures]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_14641 With the rise of new antibody combinations in therapeutic regimens, it is important to understand how antibodies work together as well as individually. Here, we investigate the specific case of monoclonal antibodies targeting a cancer-causing receptor or the influenza virus and develop a statistical mechanical framework that predicts the effectiveness of a mixture of antibodies. The power of this model lies in its ability to make a large number of predictions based on a limited amount of data. For example, once 10 antibodies have been individually characterized and their epitopes have been mapped, our model can predict how any of the 210 = 1024 combinations will behave. This predictive power can aid therapeutic efforts by assessing which combinations of antibodies will elicit the most effective response.

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<![CDATA[Rapid and assured genetic engineering methods applied to <i>Acinetobacter baylyi</i> ADP1 genome streamlining]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N8ac39c8d-ee13-4bb0-b3b9-5a6810ec4315 One goal of synthetic biology is to improve the efficiency and predictability of living cells by removing extraneous genes from their genomes. We demonstrate improved methods for engineering the genome of the metabolically versatile and naturally transformable bacterium Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 and apply them to a genome streamlining project. In Golden Transformation, linear DNA fragments constructed by Golden Gate Assembly are directly added to cells to create targeted deletions, edits, or additions to the chromosome. We tested the dispensability of 55 regions of the ADP1 chromosome using Golden Transformation. The 18 successful multiple-gene deletions ranged in size from 21 to 183 kb and collectively accounted for 23.4% of its genome. The success of each multiple-gene deletion attempt could only be partially predicted on the basis of an existing collection of viable ADP1 single-gene deletion strains and a new transposon insertion sequencing (Tn-Seq) dataset that we generated. We further show that ADP1’s native CRISPR/Cas locus is active and can be retargeted using Golden Transformation. We reprogrammed it to create a CRISPR-Lock, which validates that a gene has been successfully removed from the chromosome and prevents it from being reacquired. These methods can be used together to implement combinatorial routes to further genome streamlining and for more rapid and assured metabolic engineering of this versatile chassis organism.

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<![CDATA[Mapping the coevolution, leadership and financing of research on viral vectors, RNAi, CRISPR/Cas9 and other genomic editing technologies]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N5b989351-f842-4a35-9237-928ff4c9c806

Genomic editing technologies are developing rapidly, promising significant developments for biomedicine, agriculture and other fields. In the present investigation, we analyzed and compared the process of innovation for six genomic technologies: viral vectors, RNAi, TALENs, meganucleases, ZFNs and CRISPR/Cas including the profile of the main research institutions and their funders, to understand how innovation evolved and what institutions influenced research trajectories. A Web of Science search of papers on viral vectors RNAi, CRISPR/Cas, TALENs, ZFNs and meganucleases was used to build a citation network of 16,746 papers. An analysis of network clustering combined with text mining was performed. For viral vectors, a long-term process of incremental innovation was identified, which was largely publicly funded in the United States and the European Union. The trajectory of RNAi research included clusters related to the study of RNAi as a biological phenomenon and its use in functional genomics, biomedicine and pest control. A British philanthropic organization and a US pharmaceutical company played a key role in the development of basic RNAi research and clinical application respectively, in addition to government and academic institutions. In the case of CRISPR/Cas research, basic science discoveries led to the technical improvements, and these two in turn provided the information required for the development of biomedical, agricultural, livestock and industrial applications. The trajectory of CRISPR/Cas research exhibits a geopolitical division of the investigation efforts between the US, as the main producer and funder of basic research and technical improvements, and Chinese research institutions increasingly leading applied research. Our results reflect a change in the model for financing science, with reduced public financing for basic science and applied research on publicly funded technological developments in the US, and the emergence of China as a scientific superpower, with implications for the development of applications of genomic technologies.

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<![CDATA[A heterodimer of evolved designer-recombinases precisely excises a human genomic DNA locus]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N9eae6558-b2b9-4bcb-8b22-ddc7c070e6bb

Abstract

Site-specific recombinases (SSRs) such as the Cre/loxP system are useful genome engineering tools that can be repurposed by altering their DNA-binding specificity. However, SSRs that delete a natural sequence from the human genome have not been reported thus far. Here, we describe the generation of an SSR system that precisely excises a 1.4 kb fragment from the human genome. Through a streamlined process of substrate-linked directed evolution we generated two separate recombinases that, when expressed together, act as a heterodimer to delete a human genomic sequence from chromosome 7. Our data indicates that designer-recombinases can be generated in a manageable timeframe for precision genome editing. A large-scale bioinformatics analysis suggests that around 13% of all human protein-coding genes could be targetable by dual designer-recombinase induced genomic deletion (dDRiGD). We propose that heterospecific designer-recombinases, which work independently of the host DNA repair machinery, represent an efficient and safe alternative to nuclease-based genome editing technologies.

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<![CDATA[A memory switch for plant synthetic biology based on the phage ϕC31 integration system]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N8433dbfa-8138-42b3-b047-f5fbf7986470

Abstract

Synthetic biology has advanced from the setup of basic genetic devices to the design of increasingly complex gene circuits to provide organisms with new functions. While many bacterial, fungal and mammalian unicellular chassis have been extensively engineered, this progress has been delayed in plants due to the lack of reliable DNA parts and devices that enable precise control over these new synthetic functions. In particular, memory switches based on DNA site-specific recombination have been the tool of choice to build long-term and stable synthetic memory in other organisms, because they enable a shift between two alternative states registering the information at the DNA level. Here we report a memory switch for whole plants based on the bacteriophage ϕC31 site-specific integrase. The switch was built as a modular device made of standard DNA parts, designed to control the transcriptional state (on or off) of two genes of interest by alternative inversion of a central DNA regulatory element. The state of the switch can be externally operated by action of the ϕC31 integrase (Int), and its recombination directionality factor (RDF). The kinetics, memory, and reversibility of the switch were extensively characterized in Nicotiana benthamiana plants.

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<![CDATA[ N 1-Methylpseudouridine substitution enhances the performance of synthetic mRNA switches in cells]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N39b7e186-d923-481b-b72e-77a239553c64

Abstract

Synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) tools often use pseudouridine and 5-methyl cytidine as substitutions for uridine and cytidine to avoid the immune response and cytotoxicity induced by introducing mRNA into cells. However, the influence of base modifications on the functionality of the RNA tools is poorly understood. Here we show that synthetic mRNA switches containing N1-methylpseudouridine (m1Ψ) as a substitution of uridine substantially out-performed all other modified bases studied, exhibiting enhanced microRNA and protein sensitivity, better cell-type separation ability, and comparably low immune stimulation. We found that the observed phenomena stem from the high protein expression from m1Ψ containing mRNA and efficient translational repression in the presence of target microRNAs or proteins. In addition, synthetic gene circuits with m1Ψ significantly improve performance in cells. These findings indicate that synthetic mRNAs with m1Ψ modification have enormous potentials in the research and application of biofunctional RNA tools.

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<![CDATA[Coupling Cas9 to artificial inhibitory domains enhances CRISPR-Cas9 target specificity]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Nc3420619-a2b7-493b-8e9b-ab87c16e4c55

Fusing attenuated anti-CRISPR proteins to Cas9 improves specificity via kinetic insulation of ON- and OFF-target editing events.

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<![CDATA[Proposed Changes to U.S. Policy on Potential Pandemic Pathogen Oversight and Implementation]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N30744338-8a97-46a4-8724-6f0ce8b099e9

We propose here changes to the U.S. government policy on potential pandemic pathogen (PPP) oversight and implementation, emphasizing transparency of the review process and the content of the review, publication of the review in advance, responsible publication of enhanced PPP research, high-level signoff on approvals of enhanced PPP experiments, and the need for a significant effort to establish a common international approach to enhanced PPP work. We advocate that the U.S.

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<![CDATA[A Targetron-Recombinase System for Large-Scale Genome Engineering of Clostridia]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N1a41ed97-aca1-4dea-b551-5e212036ce5c

Clostridia are anaerobic bacteria with important roles in intestinal and soil microbiomes. The inability to experimentally modify the genomes of clostridia has limited their study and application in biotechnology. Here, we developed a targetron-recombinase system to efficiently make large targeted genomic deletions and insertions using the model Clostridium phytofermentans. We applied this approach to reveal the importance of a prophage to host fitness and introduce an inducible reporter by recombination-mediated cassette exchange.

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<![CDATA[Controlling aggregation of cholesterol-modified DNA nanostructures]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Nf18d0013-d45b-48e3-9e27-fca93318a484

Abstract

DNA nanotechnology allows for the design of programmable DNA-built nanodevices which controllably interact with biological membranes and even mimic the function of natural membrane proteins. Hydrophobic modifications, covalently linked to the DNA, are essential for targeted interfacing of DNA nanostructures with lipid membranes. However, these hydrophobic tags typically induce undesired aggregation eliminating structural control, the primary advantage of DNA nanotechnology. Here, we study the aggregation of cholesterol-modified DNA nanostructures using a combined approach of non-denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, dynamic light scattering, confocal microscopy and atomistic molecular dynamics simulations. We show that the aggregation of cholesterol-tagged ssDNA is sequence-dependent, while for assembled DNA constructs, the number and position of the cholesterol tags are the dominating factors. Molecular dynamics simulations of cholesterol-modified ssDNA reveal that the nucleotides wrap around the hydrophobic moiety, shielding it from the environment. Utilizing this behavior, we demonstrate experimentally that the aggregation of cholesterol-modified DNA nanostructures can be controlled by the length of ssDNA overhangs positioned adjacent to the cholesterol. Our easy-to-implement method for tuning cholesterol-mediated aggregation allows for increased control and a closer structure–function relationship of membrane-interfacing DNA constructs — a fundamental prerequisite for employing DNA nanodevices in research and biomedicine.

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<![CDATA[Control of ϕC31 integrase-mediated site-specific recombination by protein trans-splicing]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N660e73bb-b72b-4569-a92d-fa929f1e3c6d

Abstract

Serine integrases are emerging as core tools in synthetic biology and have applications in biotechnology and genome engineering. We have designed a split-intein serine integrase-based system with potential for regulation of site-specific recombination events at the protein level in vivo. The ϕC31 integrase was split into two extein domains, and intein sequences (Npu DnaEN and Ssp DnaEC) were attached to the two termini to be fused. Expression of these two components followed by post-translational protein trans-splicing in Escherichia coli generated a fully functional ϕC31 integrase. We showed that protein splicing is necessary for recombination activity; deletion of intein domains or mutation of key intein residues inactivated recombination. We used an invertible promoter reporter system to demonstrate a potential application of the split intein-regulated site-specific recombination system in building reversible genetic switches. We used the same split inteins to control the reconstitution of a split Integrase-Recombination Directionality Factor fusion (Integrase-RDF) that efficiently catalysed the reverse attR x attL recombination. This demonstrates the potential for split-intein regulation of the forward and reverse reactions using the integrase and the integrase-RDF fusion, respectively. The split-intein integrase is a potentially versatile, regulatable component for building synthetic genetic circuits and devices.

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<![CDATA[A paper-based, cell-free biosensor system for the detection of heavy metals and date rape drugs]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c897715d5eed0c4847d23fa

Biosensors have emerged as a valuable tool with high specificity and sensitivity for fast and reliable detection of hazardous substances in drinking water. Numerous substances have been addressed using synthetic biology approaches. However, many proposed biosensors are based on living, genetically modified organisms and are therefore limited in shelf life, usability and biosafety. We addressed these issues by the construction of an extensible, cell-free biosensor. Storage is possible through freeze drying on paper. Following the addition of an aqueous sample, a highly efficient cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) reaction is initiated. Specific allosteric transcription factors modulate the expression of ‘superfolder’ green fluorescent protein (sfGFP) depending on the presence of the substance of interest. The resulting fluorescence intensities are analyzed with a conventional smartphone accompanied by simple and cheap light filters. An ordinary differential equitation (ODE) model of the biosensors was developed, which enabled prediction and optimization of performance. With an optimized cell-free biosensor based on the Shigella flexneri MerR transcriptional activator, detection of 6 μg/L Hg(II) ions in water was achieved. Furthermore, a completely new biosensor for the detection of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a substance used as date-rape drug, was established by employing the naturally occurring transcriptional repressor BlcR from Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

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<![CDATA[Generation of TGFBI knockout ABCG2+/ABCB5+ double-positive limbal epithelial stem cells by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6c7575d5eed0c4843cfdce

Corneal dystrophy is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations of the transforming growth factor β-induced (TGFBI) gene on chromosome 5q31.8. This disease is therefore ideally suited for gene therapy using genome-editing technology. Here, we isolated human limbal epithelial stem cells (ABCG2+/ABCB5+ double-positive LESCs) and established a TGFBI knockout using RNA-guided clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 genome editing. An LESC clone generated with a single-guide RNA (sgRNA) targeting exon 4 of the TGFBI gene was sequenced in order to identify potential genomic insertions and deletions near the Cas9/sgRNA-target sites. A detailed analysis of the differences between wild type LESCs and the single LESC clone modified by the TGFBI-targeting sgRNA revealed two distinct mutations, an 8 bp deletion and a 14 bp deletion flanked by a single point mutation. These mutations each lead to a frameshift missense mutation and generate premature stop codons downstream in exon 4. To validate the TGFBI knockout LESC clone, we used single cell culture to isolate four individual sub-clones, each of which was found to possess both mutations present in the parent clone, indicating that the population is homogenous. Furthermore, we confirmed that TGFBI protein expression is abolished in the TGFBI knockout LESC clone using western blot analysis. Collectively, our results suggest that genome editing of TGFBI in LESCs by CRISPR/Cas9 may be useful strategy to treat corneal dystrophy.

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<![CDATA[Controlling the dynamics of the Nek2 leucine zipper by engineering of “kinetic” disulphide bonds]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5df370d5eed0c4845812dc

Nek2 is a dimeric serine/ threonine protein kinase that belongs to the family of NIMA-related kinases (Neks). Its N-terminal catalytic domain and its C-terminal regulatory region are bridged by a leucine zipper, which plays an important role in the activation of Nek2’s catalytic activity. Unusual conformational dynamics on the intermediary/slow timescale has thwarted all attempts so far to determine the structure of the Nek2 leucine zipper by means of X-ray crystallography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Disulfide engineering, the strategic placement of non-native disulfide bonds into flexible regions flanking the coiled coil, was used to modulate the conformational exchange dynamics of this important dimerization domain. The resulting reduction in exchange rate leads to substantial improvements of important features in NMR spectra, such as line width, coherence transfer leakage and relaxation. These effects were comprehensively analyzed for the wild type protein, two single disulfide bond-bearing mutants and another double disulfide bonds-carrying mutant. Furthermore, exchange kinetics were measured across a wide temperature range, allowing for a detailed analysis of activation energy (ΔG) and maximal rate constant (k’ex). For one mutant carrying a disulfide bond at its C-terminus, a full backbone NMR assignment could be obtained for both conformers, demonstrating the benefits of the disulfide engineering. Our study demonstrates the first successful application of ‘kinetic’ disulfide bonds for the purpose of controlling the adverse effects of protein dynamics. Firstly, this provides a promising, robust platform for the full structural and functional investigation of the Nek2 leucine zipper in the future. Secondly, this work broadens the toolbox of protein engineering by disulfide bonds through the addition of a kinetic option in addition to the well-established thermodynamic uses of disulfide bonds.

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<![CDATA[Machine learning framework for assessment of microbial factory performance]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c478c5fd5eed0c484bd1ec8

Metabolic models can estimate intrinsic product yields for microbial factories, but such frameworks struggle to predict cell performance (including product titer or rate) under suboptimal metabolism and complex bioprocess conditions. On the other hand, machine learning, complementary to metabolic modeling necessitates large amounts of data. Building such a database for metabolic engineering designs requires significant manpower and is prone to human errors and bias. We propose an approach to integrate data-driven methods with genome scale metabolic model for assessment of microbial bio-production (yield, titer and rate). Using engineered E. coli as an example, we manually extracted and curated a data set comprising about 1200 experimentally realized cell factories from ~100 papers. We furthermore augmented the key design features (e.g., genetic modifications and bioprocess variables) extracted from literature with additional features derived from running the genome-scale metabolic model iML1515 simulations with constraints that match the experimental data. Then, data augmentation and ensemble learning (e.g., support vector machines, gradient boosted trees, and neural networks in a stacked regressor model) are employed to alleviate the challenges of sparse, non-standardized, and incomplete data sets, while multiple correspondence analysis/principal component analysis are used to rank influential factors on bio-production. The hybrid framework demonstrates a reasonably high cross-validation accuracy for prediction of E.coli factory performance metrics under presumed bioprocess and pathway conditions (Pearson correlation coefficients between 0.8 and 0.93 on new data not seen by the model).

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<![CDATA[Deep learning image recognition enables efficient genome editing in zebrafish by automated injections]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c3d011cd5eed0c484038663

One of the most popular techniques in zebrafish research is microinjection. This is a rapid and efficient way to genetically manipulate early developing embryos, and to introduce microbes, chemical compounds, nanoparticles or tracers at larval stages. Here we demonstrate the development of a machine learning software that allows for microinjection at a trained target site in zebrafish eggs at unprecedented speed. The software is based on the open-source deep-learning library Inception v3. In a first step, the software distinguishes wells containing embryos at one-cell stage from wells to be skipped with an accuracy of 93%. A second step was developed to pinpoint the injection site. Deep learning allows to predict this location on average within 42 μm to manually annotated sites. Using a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), both steps together take less than 100 milliseconds. We first tested our system by injecting a morpholino into the middle of the yolk and found that the automated injection efficiency is as efficient as manual injection (~ 80%). Next, we tested both CRISPR/Cas9 and DNA construct injections into the zygote and obtained a comparable efficiency to that of an experienced experimentalist. Combined with a higher throughput, this results in a higher yield. Hence, the automated injection of CRISPR/Cas9 will allow high-throughput applications to knock out and knock in relevant genes to study their mechanisms or pathways of interest in diverse areas of biomedical research.

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<![CDATA[CRISPR-Cas9 In Situ engineering of subtilisin E in Bacillus subtilis]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c3d0133d5eed0c48403922d

CRISPR-Cas systems have become widely used across all fields of biology as a genome engineering tool. With its recent demonstration in the Gram positive industrial workhorse Bacillus subtilis, this tool has become an attractive option for rapid, markerless strain engineering of industrial production hosts. Previously described strategies for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in B. subtilis have involved chromosomal integrations of Cas9 and single guide RNA expression cassettes, or construction of large plasmids for simultaneous transformation of both single guide RNA and donor DNA. Here we use a flexible, co-transformation approach where the single guide RNA is inserted in a plasmid for Cas9 co-expression, and the donor DNA is supplied as a linear PCR product observing an editing efficiency of 76%. This allowed multiple, rapid rounds of in situ editing of the subtilisin E gene to incorporate a salt bridge triad present in the Bacillus clausii thermotolerant homolog, M-protease. A novel subtilisin E variant was obtained with increased thermotolerance and activity.

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