July 7, 2019  |  

Genome-wide engineering of an infectious clone of herpes simplex virus type 1 using synthetic genomics assembly methods.

Here, we present a transformational approach to genome engineering of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which has a large DNA genome, using synthetic genomics tools. We believe this method will enable more rapid and complex modifications of HSV-1 and other large DNA viruses than previous technologies, facilitating many useful applications. Yeast transformation-associated recombination was used to clone 11 fragments comprising the HSV-1 strain KOS 152 kb genome. Using overlapping sequences between the adjacent pieces, we assembled the fragments into a complete virus genome in yeast, transferred it into an Escherichia coli host, and reconstituted infectious virus following transfection into mammalian cells. The virus derived from this yeast-assembled genome, KOS(YA), replicated with kinetics similar to wild-type virus. We demonstrated the utility of this modular assembly technology by making numerous modifications to a single gene, making changes to two genes at the same time and, finally, generating individual and combinatorial deletions to a set of five conserved genes that encode virion structural proteins. While the ability to perform genome-wide editing through assembly methods in large DNA virus genomes raises dual-use concerns, we believe the incremental risks are outweighed by potential benefits. These include enhanced functional studies, generation of oncolytic virus vectors, development of delivery platforms of genes for vaccines or therapy, as well as more rapid development of countermeasures against potential biothreats.

July 7, 2019  |  

De novo design and synthesis of a 30-cistron translation-factor module.

Two of the many goals of synthetic biology are synthesizing large biochemical systems and simplifying their assembly. While several genes have been assembled together by modular idempotent cloning, it is unclear if such simplified strategies scale to very large constructs for expression and purification of whole pathways. Here we synthesize from oligodeoxyribonucleotides a completely de-novo-designed, 58-kb multigene DNA. This BioBrick plasmid insert encodes 30 of the 31 translation factors of the PURE translation system, each His-tagged and in separate transcription cistrons. Dividing the insert between three high-copy expression plasmids enables the bulk purification of the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and translation factors necessary for affordable, scalable reconstitution of an in vitro transcription and translation system, PURE 3.0.© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.

July 7, 2019  |  

Investigation of proposed ladderane biosynthetic genes from anammox bacteria by heterologous expression in E. coli.

Ladderanes are hydrocarbon chains with three or five linearly concatenated cyclobutane rings that are uniquely produced as membrane lipid components by anammox (anaerobic ammonia-oxidizing) bacteria. By virtue of their angle and torsional strain, ladderanes are unusually energetic compounds, and if produced biochemically by engineered microbes, could serve as renewable, high-energy-density jet fuel components. The biochemistry and genetics underlying the ladderane biosynthetic pathway are unknown, however, previous studies have identified a pool of 34 candidate genes from the anammox bacterium, Kuenenia stuttgartiensis, some or all of which may be involved with ladderane fatty acid biosynthesis. The goal of the present study was to establish a systematic means of testing the candidate genes from K. stuttgartiensis for involvement in ladderane biosynthesis through heterologous expression in E. coli under anaerobic conditions. This study describes an efficient means of assembly of synthesized, codon-optimized candidate ladderane biosynthesis genes in synthetic operons that allows for changes to regulatory element sequences, as well as modular assembly of multiple operons for simultaneous heterologous expression in E. coli (or potentially other microbial hosts). We also describe in vivo functional tests of putative anammox homologs of the phytoene desaturase CrtI, which plays an important role in the hypothesized ladderane pathway, and a method for soluble purification of one of these enzymes. This study is, to our knowledge, the first experimental effort focusing on the role of specific anammox genes in the production of ladderanes, and lays the foundation for future efforts toward determination of the ladderane biosynthetic pathway. Our substantial, but far from comprehensive, efforts at elucidating the ladderane biosynthetic pathway were not successful. We invite the scientific community to take advantage of the considerable synthetic biology resources and experimental results developed in this study to elucidate the biosynthetic pathway that produces unique and intriguing ladderane lipids.

July 7, 2019  |  

Stability of the encoding plasmids and surface expression of CS6 differs in enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) encoding Different heat-stable (ST) enterotoxins (STh and STp).

Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), one of the most common reasons of diarrhea among infants and children in developing countries, causes disease by expression of either or both of the enterotoxins heat-labile (LT) and heat-stable (ST; divided into human-type [STh] and porcine-type [STp] variants), and colonization factors (CFs) among which CS6 is one of the most prevalent ETEC CFs. In this study we show that ETEC isolates expressing CS6+STh have higher copy numbers of the cssABCD operon encoding CS6 than those expressing CS6+STp. Long term cultivation of up to ten over-night passages of ETEC isolates harboring CS6+STh (n = 10) or CS6+STp (n = 15) showed instability of phenotypic expression of CS6 in a majority of the CS6+STp isolates, whereas most of the CS6+STh isolates retained CS6 expression. The observed instability was a correlated with loss of genes cssA and cssD as examined by PCR. Mobilization of the CS6 plasmid from an unstable CS6+STp isolate into a laboratory E. coli strain resulted in loss of the plasmid after a single over-night passage whereas the plasmid from an CS6+STh strain was retained in the laboratory strain during 10 passages. A sequence comparison between the CS6 plasmids from a stable and an unstable ETEC isolate revealed that genes necessary for plasmid stabilization, for example pemI, pemK, stbA, stbB and parM, were not present in the unstable ETEC isolate. Our results indicate that stable retention of CS6 may in part be affected by the stability of the plasmid on which both CS6 and STp or STh are located.

July 7, 2019  |  

SAR11 bacteria linked to ocean anoxia and nitrogen loss.

Bacteria of the SAR11 clade constitute up to one half of all microbial cells in the oxygen-rich surface ocean. SAR11 bacteria are also abundant in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), where oxygen falls below detection and anaerobic microbes have vital roles in converting bioavailable nitrogen to N2 gas. Anaerobic metabolism has not yet been observed in SAR11, and it remains unknown how these bacteria contribute to OMZ biogeochemical cycling. Here, genomic analysis of single cells from the world’s largest OMZ revealed previously uncharacterized SAR11 lineages with adaptations for life without oxygen, including genes for respiratory nitrate reductases (Nar). SAR11 nar genes were experimentally verified to encode proteins catalysing the nitrite-producing first step of denitrification and constituted ~40% of OMZ nar transcripts, with transcription peaking in the anoxic zone of maximum nitrate reduction activity. These results link SAR11 to pathways of ocean nitrogen loss, redefining the ecological niche of Earth’s most abundant organismal group.

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