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November 1, 2018

Comprehensive profiling of four base overhang ligation fidelity by T4 DNA Ligase and application to DNA assembly.

Synthetic biology relies on the manufacture of large and complex DNA constructs from libraries of genetic parts. Golden Gate and other Type IIS restriction enzyme-dependent DNA assembly methods enable rapid construction of genes and operons through one-pot, multifragment assembly, with the ordering of parts determined by the ligation of Watson-Crick base-paired overhangs. However, ligation of mismatched overhangs leads to erroneous assembly, and low-efficiency Watson Crick pairings can lead to truncated assemblies. Using sets of empirically vetted, high-accuracy junction pairs avoids this issue but limits the number of parts that can be joined in a single reaction. Here, we report the…

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August 1, 2018

Creating a functional single-chromosome yeast.

Eukaryotic genomes are generally organized in multiple chromosomes. Here we have created a functional single-chromosome yeast from a Saccharomyces cerevisiae haploid cell containing sixteen linear chromosomes, by successive end-to-end chromosome fusions and centromere deletions. The fusion of sixteen native linear chromosomes into a single chromosome results in marked changes to the global three-dimensional structure of the chromosome due to the loss of all centromere-associated inter-chromosomal interactions, most telomere-associated inter-chromosomal interactions and 67.4% of intra-chromosomal interactions. However, the single-chromosome and wild-type yeast cells have nearly identical transcriptome and similar phenome profiles. The giant single chromosome can support cell life, although this…

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July 1, 2018

Synthetic biology, genome mining, and combinatorial biosynthesis of NRPS-derived antibiotics: a perspective.

Combinatorial biosynthesis of novel secondary metabolites derived from nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) has been in slow development for about a quarter of a century. Progress has been hampered by the complexity of the giant multimodular multienzymes. More recently, advances have been made on understanding the chemical and structural biology of these complex megaenzymes, and on learning the design rules for engineering functional hybrid enzymes. In this perspective, I address what has been learned about successful engineering of complex lipopeptides related to daptomycin, and discuss how synthetic biology and microbial genome mining can converge to broaden the scope and enhance the…

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April 10, 2018

Inferring the minimal genome of Mesoplasma florum by comparative genomics and transposon mutagenesis.

The creation and comparison of minimal genomes will help better define the most fundamental mechanisms supporting life. Mesoplasma florum is a near-minimal, fast-growing, nonpathogenic bacterium potentially amenable to genome reduction efforts. In a comparative genomic study of 13 M. florum strains, including 11 newly sequenced genomes, we have identified the core genome and open pangenome of this species. Our results show that all of the strains have approximately 80% of their gene content in common. Of the remaining 20%, 17% of the genes were found in multiple strains and 3% were unique to any given strain. On the basis of random…

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October 1, 2017

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…

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July 12, 2017

ConcatSeq: A method for increasing throughput of single molecule sequencing by concatenating short DNA fragments.

Single molecule sequencing (SMS) platforms enable base sequences to be read directly from individual strands of DNA in real-time. Though capable of long read lengths, SMS platforms currently suffer from low throughput compared to competing short-read sequencing technologies. Here, we present a novel strategy for sequencing library preparation, dubbed ConcatSeq, which increases the throughput of SMS platforms by generating long concatenated templates from pools of short DNA molecules. We demonstrate adaptation of this technique to two target enrichment workflows, commonly used for oncology applications, and feasibility using PacBio single molecule real-time (SMRT) technology. Our approach is capable of increasing the…

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July 1, 2017

SMRT Gate: A method for validation of synthetic constructs on Pacific Biosciences sequencing platforms.

Current DNA assembly methods are prone to sequence errors, requiring rigorous quality control (QC) to identify incorrect assemblies or synthesized constructs. Such errors can lead to misinterpretation of phenotypes. Because of this intrinsic problem, routine QC analysis is generally performed on three or more clones using a combination of restriction endonuclease assays, colony PCR, and Sanger sequencing. However, as new automation methods emerge that enable high-throughput assembly, QC using these techniques has become a major bottleneck. Here, we describe a quick and affordable methodology for the QC of synthetic constructs. Our method involves a one-pot digestion-ligation DNA assembly reaction, based…

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June 1, 2017

Iterative optimization of xylose catabolism in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using combinatorial expression tuning.

A common challenge in metabolic engineering is rapidly identifying rate-controlling enzymes in heterologous pathways for subsequent production improvement. We demonstrate a workflow to address this challenge and apply it to improving xylose utilization in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. For eight reactions required for conversion of xylose to ethanol, we screened enzymes for functional expression in S. cerevisiae, followed by a combinatorial expression analysis to achieve pathway flux balancing and identification of limiting enzymatic activities. In the next round of strain engineering, we increased the copy number of these limiting enzymes and again tested the eight-enzyme combinatorial expression library in this new background.…

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October 1, 2016

A roadmap for gene system development in Clostridium.

Clostridium species are both heroes and villains. Some cause serious human and animal diseases, those present in the gut microbiota generally contribute to health and wellbeing, while others represent useful industrial chassis for the production of chemicals and fuels. To understand, counter or exploit, there is a fundamental requirement for effective systems that may be used for directed or random genome modifications. We have formulated a simple roadmap whereby the necessary gene systems maybe developed and deployed. At its heart is the use of 'pseudo-suicide' vectors and the creation of a pyrE mutant (a uracil auxotroph), initially aided by ClosTron…

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March 29, 2016

A workflow for studying specialized metabolism in nonmodel eukaryotic organisms

Eukaryotes contain a diverse tapestry of specialized metabolites, many of which are of significant pharmaceutical and industrial importance to humans. Nevertheless, exploration of specialized metabolic pathways underlying specific chemical traits in nonmodel eukaryotic organisms has been technically challenging and historically lagged behind that of the bacterial systems. Recent advances in genomics, metabolomics, phylogenomics, and synthetic biology now enable a new workflow for interrogating unknown specialized metabolic systems in nonmodel eukaryotic hosts with greater efficiency and mechanistic depth. This chapter delineates such workflow by providing a collection of state-of-the-art approaches and tools, ranging from multiomics-guided candidate gene identification to in vitro…

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July 1, 2015

Development of an orthogonal fatty acid biosynthesis system in E. coli for oleochemical production.

Here we report recombinant expression and activity of several type I fatty acid synthases that can function in parallel with the native Escherichia coli fatty acid synthase. Corynebacterium glutamicum FAS1A was the most active in E. coli and this fatty acid synthase was leveraged to produce oleochemicals including fatty alcohols and methyl ketones. Coexpression of FAS1A with the ACP/CoA-reductase Maqu2220 from Marinobacter aquaeolei shifted the chain length distribution of fatty alcohols produced. Coexpression of FAS1A with FadM, FadB, and an acyl-CoA-oxidase from Micrococcus luteus resulted in the production of methyl ketones, although at a lower level than cells using the…

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June 1, 2014

Simultaneous non-contiguous deletions using large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases.

Toward achieving rapid and large scale genome modification directly in a target organism, we have developed a new genome engineering strategy that uses a combination of bioinformatics aided design, large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases. Using Cre recombinase we swapped a target 126-kb segment of the Escherichia coli genome with a 72-kb synthetic DNA cassette, thereby effectively eliminating over 54 kb of genomic DNA from three non-contiguous regions in a single recombination event. We observed complete replacement of the native sequence with the modified synthetic sequence through the action of the Cre recombinase and no competition from homologous recombination. Because…

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May 1, 2014

AAV-mediated delivery of zinc finger nucleases targeting hepatitis B virus inhibits active replication.

Despite an existing effective vaccine, hepatitis B virus (HBV) remains a major public health concern. There are effective suppressive therapies for HBV, but they remain expensive and inaccessible to many, and not all patients respond well. Furthermore, HBV can persist as genomic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) that remains in hepatocytes even during otherwise effective therapy and facilitates rebound in patients after treatment has stopped. Therefore, the need for an effective treatment that targets active and persistent HBV infections remains. As a novel approach to treat HBV, we have targeted the HBV genome for disruption to prevent viral reactivation and…

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