April 21, 2020  |  

Programmable mutually exclusive alternative splicing for generating RNA and protein diversity.

Alternative splicing performs a central role in expanding genomic coding capacity and proteomic diversity. However, programming of splicing patterns in engineered biological systems remains underused. Synthetic approaches thus far have predominantly focused on controlling expression of a single protein through alternative splicing. Here, we describe a modular and extensible platform for regulating four programmable exons that undergo a mutually exclusive alternative splicing event to generate multiple functionally-distinct proteins. We present an intron framework that enforces the mutual exclusivity of two internal exons and demonstrate a graded series of consensus sequence elements of varying strengths that set the ratio of two mutually exclusive isoforms. We apply this framework to program the DNA-binding domains of modular transcription factors to differentially control downstream gene activation. This splicing platform advances an approach for generating diverse isoforms and can ultimately be applied to program modular proteins and increase coding capacity of synthetic biological systems.


October 23, 2019  |  

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 replication. We generated 3 zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) that target sequences within the HBV polymerase, core and X genes. Upon the formation of ZFN-induced DNA double strand breaks (DSB), imprecise repair by non-homologous end joining leads to mutations that inactivate HBV genes. We delivered HBV-specific ZFNs using self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors and tested their anti-HBV activity in HepAD38 cells. HBV-ZFNs efficiently disrupted HBV target sites by inducing site-specific mutations. Cytotoxicity was seen with one of the ZFNs. scAAV-mediated delivery of a ZFN targeting HBV polymerase resulted in complete inhibition of HBV DNA replication and production of infectious HBV virions in HepAD38 cells. This effect was sustained for at least 2 weeks following only a single treatment. Furthermore, high specificity was observed for all ZFNs, as negligible off-target cleavage was seen via high-throughput sequencing of 7 closely matched potential off-target sites. These results show that HBV-targeted ZFNs can efficiently inhibit active HBV replication and suppress the cellular template for HBV persistence, making them promising candidates for eradication therapy.


October 23, 2019  |  

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 of the versatility and high-efficiency of the Cre-lox system, this method can be used in any organism where this system is functional as well as adapted to use with other highly precise genome engineering systems. Compared to present-day iterative approaches in genome engineering, we anticipate this method will greatly speed up the creation of reduced, modularized and optimized genomes through the integration of deletion analyses data, transcriptomics, synthetic biology and site-specific recombination. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


October 23, 2019  |  

An online bioinformatics tool predicts zinc finger and TALE nuclease off-target cleavage.

Although engineered nucleases can efficiently cleave intracellular DNA at desired target sites, major concerns remain on potential ‘off-target’ cleavage that may occur throughout the genome. We developed an online tool: predicted report of genome-wide nuclease off-target sites (PROGNOS) that effectively identifies off-target sites. The initial bioinformatics algorithms in PROGNOS were validated by predicting 44 of 65 previously confirmed off-target sites, and by uncovering a new off-target site for the extensively studied zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) targeting C-C chemokine receptor type 5. Using PROGNOS, we rapidly interrogated 128 potential off-target sites for newly designed transcription activator-like effector nucleases containing either Asn-Asn (NN) or Asn-Lys (NK) repeat variable di-residues (RVDs) and 3- and 4-finger ZFNs, and validated 13 bona fide off-target sites for these nucleases by DNA sequencing. The PROGNOS algorithms were further refined by incorporating additional features of nuclease-DNA interactions and the newly confirmed off-target sites into the training set, which increased the percentage of bona fide off-target sites found within the top PROGNOS rankings. By identifying potential off-target sites in silico, PROGNOS allows the selection of more specific target sites and aids the identification of bona fide off-target sites, significantly facilitating the design of engineered nucleases for genome editing applications.


September 22, 2019  |  

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 and in vivo functional and structural characterization of specialized metabolic enzymes. As already demonstrated by several recent studies, this new workflow opens up a gateway into the largely untapped world of natural product biochemistry in eukaryotes. © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

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 transposon mutagenesis, we also estimated that ~290 out of 720 genes are essential for M. florum L1 in rich medium. We next evaluated different genome reduction scenarios for M. florum L1 by using gene conservation and essentiality data, as well as comparisons with the first working approximation of a minimal organism, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn3.0. Our results suggest that 409 of the 473 M. mycoides JCVI-syn3.0 genes have orthologs in M. florum L1. Conversely, 57 putatively essential M. florum L1 genes have no homolog in M. mycoides JCVI-syn3.0. This suggests differences in minimal genome compositions, even for these evolutionarily closely related bacteria. IMPORTANCE The last years have witnessed the development of whole-genome cloning and transplantation methods and the complete synthesis of entire chromosomes. Recently, the first minimal cell, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn3.0, was created. Despite these milestone achievements, several questions remain to be answered. For example, is the composition of minimal genomes virtually identical in phylogenetically related species? On the basis of comparative genomics and transposon mutagenesis, we investigated this question by using an alternative model, Mesoplasma florum, that is also amenable to genome reduction efforts. Our results suggest that the creation of additional minimal genomes could help reveal different gene compositions and strategies that can support life, even within closely related species.


September 22, 2019  |  

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 strain shows reduced growth across environments, competitiveness, gamete production and viability. This synthetic biology study demonstrates an approach to exploration of eukaryote evolution with respect to chromosome structure and function.


September 22, 2019  |  

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 use of comprehensive end-joining ligation fidelity and bias data to predict high accuracy junction sets for Golden Gate assembly. The ligation profile accurately predicted junction fidelity in ten-fragment Golden Gate assembly reactions and enabled accurate and efficient assembly of a lac cassette from up to 24-fragments in a single reaction.


July 19, 2019  |  

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. This workflow yielded a strain that has a ~70% increase in biomass yield and ~240% increase in xylose utilization. Finally, we chromosomally integrated the expression library. This library enriched for strains with multiple integrations of the pathway, which likely were the result of tandem integrations mediated by promoter homology. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2017;114: 1301-1309. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


July 19, 2019  |  

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 on the Golden Gate assembly methodology, that is coupled with Pacific Biosciences’ Single Molecule, Real-Time (PacBio SMRT) sequencing technology.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 native FAS. This work, to our knowledge, is the first example of in vivo function of a heterologous fatty acid synthase in E. coli. Using FAS1 enzymes for oleochemical production have several potential advantages, and further optimization of this system could lead to strains with more efficient conversion to desired products. Finally, functional expression of these large enzyme complexes in E. coli will enable their study without culturing the native organisms. Published by Elsevier Inc.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 sequencing throughput of the PacBio RSII platform by more than five-fold, while maintaining the ability to correctly call allele frequencies of known single nucleotide variants. ConcatSeq provides a versatile new sample preparation tool for long-read sequencing technologies.


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  |  

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 technology, but ultimately made using a special form of allelic exchange termed ACE (Allele-Coupled Exchange). All mutants, regardless of the mutagen employed, are made in this host. This is because through the use of ACE vectors, mutants can be rapidly complemented concomitant with correction of the pyrE allele and restoration of uracil prototrophy. This avoids the phenotypic effects frequently observed with high copy number plasmids and dispenses with the need to add antibiotic to ensure plasmid retention. Once available, the pyrE host may be used to stably insert all manner of application specific modules. Examples include, a sigma factor to allow deployment of a mariner transposon, hydrolases involved in biomass deconstruction and therapeutic genes in cancer delivery vehicles. To date, provided DNA transfer is obtained, we have not encountered any clostridial species where this technology cannot be applied. These include, Clostridium difficile, Clostridium acetobutylicum, Clostridium beijerinckii, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium sporogenes, Clostridium pasteurianum, Clostridium ljungdahlii, Clostridium autoethanogenum and even Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius. Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 speed and robustness of combinatorial biosynthesis of NRPS-derived natural products for drug discovery.


Talk with an expert

If you have a question, need to check the status of an order, or are interested in purchasing an instrument, we're here to help.