103 results found
Ellis T, Blount B, 2023, Synthetic yeast chromosome XI design provides a testbed for the study of extrachromosomal circular DNA dynamics, Cell Genomics, ISSN: 2666-979X
Peng H, Chen R, Shaw WM, et al., 2023, Modular metabolic engineering and synthetic coculture strategies for the production of aromatic compounds in yeast, ACS Synthetic Biology, Vol: 12, Pages: 1739-1749, ISSN: 2161-5063
Microbial-derived aromatics provide a sustainable and renewable alternative to petroleum-derived chemicals. In this study, we used the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce aromatic molecules by exploiting the concept of modularity in synthetic biology. Three different modular approaches were investigated for the production of the valuable fragrance raspberry ketone (RK), found in raspberry fruits and mostly produced from petrochemicals. The first strategy used was modular cloning, which enabled the generation of combinatorial libraries of promoters to optimize the expression level of the genes involved in the synthesis pathway of RK. The second strategy was modular pathway engineering and involved the creation of four modules, one for product formation: RK synthesis module (Mod. RK); and three for precursor synthesis: aromatic amino acid synthesis module (Mod. Aro), p-coumaric acid synthesis module (Mod. p-CA), and malonyl-CoA synthesis module (Mod. M-CoA). The production of RK by combinations of the expression of these modules was studied, and the best engineered strain produced 63.5 mg/L RK from glucose, which is the highest production described in yeast, and 2.1 mg RK/g glucose, which is the highest yield reported in any organism without p-coumaric acid supplementation. The third strategy was the use of modular cocultures to explore the effects of division of labor on RK production. Two two-member communities and one three-member community were created, and their production capacity was highly dependent on the structure of the synthetic community, the inoculation ratio, and the culture media. In certain conditions, the cocultures outperformed their monoculture controls for RK production, although this was not the norm. Interestingly, the cocultures showed up to 7.5-fold increase and 308.4 mg/L of 4-hydroxy benzalacetone, the direct precursor of RK, which can be used for the semi-synthesis of RK. This study illustrates the utility of modularity in synth
Xu X, Meier F, Blount BA, et al., 2023, Trimming the genomic fat: minimising and re-functionalising genomes using synthetic biology., Nat Commun, Vol: 14
Naturally evolved organisms typically have large genomes that enable their survival and growth under various conditions. However, the complexity of genomes often precludes our complete understanding of them, and limits the success of biotechnological designs. In contrast, minimal genomes have reduced complexity and therefore improved engineerability, increased biosynthetic capacity through the removal of unnecessary genetic elements, and less recalcitrance to complete characterisation. Here, we review the past and current genome minimisation and re-functionalisation efforts, with an emphasis on the latest advances facilitated by synthetic genomics, and provide a critical appraisal of their potential for industrial applications.
Walker KT, Keane J, Goosens VJ, et al., 2023, Self-dyeing textiles grown from cellulose-producing bacteria with engineered tyrosinase expression
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Environmental concerns are driving interests in post-petroleum synthetic textiles produced from microbial and fungal sources. Bacterial cellulose is a promising sustainable leather alternative, on account of its material properties, low infrastructure needs and biodegradability. However, for alternative textiles like bacterial cellulose to be fully sustainable, alternative ways to dye textiles need to be developed alongside alternative production methods. To address this, we here use genetic engineering of<jats:italic>Komagataeibacter rhaeticus</jats:italic>to create a bacterial strain that grows self-dyeing bacterial cellulose. Dark black pigmentation robust to material use is achieved through melanin biosynthesis in the bacteria from recombinant tyrosinase expression. Melanated bacterial cellulose production can be scaled up for the construction of prototype fashion products, and we illustrate the potential of combining engineered self-dyeing with tools from synthetic biology, via the optogenetic patterning of gene expression in cellulose-producing bacteria. With this work, we demonstrate that combining genetic engineering with current and future methods of textile biofabrication has the potential to create a new class of textiles.</jats:p>
Shaw WM, Studena L, Roy K, et al., 2023, Author Correction: Inducible expression of large gRNA arrays for multiplexed CRISPRai applications( doi 10.1038/s41467-022-32603-7, 25 augu , 20220, Nature Communications, Vol: 14, Pages: 1-1, ISSN: 2041-1723
Caro-Astorga J, Lee K, Ellis T, 2022, Increasing bacterial cellulose compression resilience with glycerol or PEG400 as a route to more robust engineered living materials, Carbohydrate Polymer Technologies and Applications, Vol: 4, Pages: 1-6, ISSN: 2666-8939
Bacterial cellulose (BC) is one of the current natural materials at the edge of innovation in engineered living materials (ELMs) research due to its ease of growth and outstanding properties as a hydrogel. One of the main limitations of this material, however, is its quick dehydration in open environments as water molecules leave the porous network. Here we show that other solvents with higher evaporation temperatures, namely glycerol and polyethylene glycol (PEG), can play the same role as water within the BC structure interacting with cellulose fibres via hydrogen bonds. We demonstrate that these molecules provide up to a 130-fold improvement in the Young´s Modulus of BC hydrogels to compression forces in a concentration dependent manner. To take advantage of these effects for application in BC-based ELMs produced by Komagataeibacter rhaeticus, we also explored the effect of glycerol and PEG400 on the survival of the BC-producing bacteria in BC pieces. PEG400 at 20% doubled the material resilience to compression forces, still allowing bacteria to survive within the material for weeks. These results open further opportunities to explore new applications and stacked storage conditions.
Shaw W, Lu X, Ellis T, 2022, Screening microbially produced Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol using a yeast biosensor workflow, Nature Communications, Vol: 13, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 2041-1723
Microbial production of cannabinoids promises to provide a consistent, cheaper, and more sustainable supply of these important therapeutic molecules. However, scaling production to compete with traditional plant-based sources is challenging. Our ability to make strain variants greatly exceeds our capacity to screen and identify high producers, creating a bottleneck in metabolic engineering efforts. Here, we present a yeast-based biosensor for detecting microbially produced Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to increase throughput and lower the cost of screening. We port five human cannabinoid G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) into yeast, showing the cannabinoid type 2 receptor, CB2R, can couple to the yeast pheromone response pathway and report on the concentration of a variety of cannabinoids over a wide dynamic and operational range. We demonstrate that our cannabinoid biosensor can detect THC from microbial cell culture and use this as a tool for measuring relative production yields from a library of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid synthase (THCAS) mutants.
Ledesma Amaro R, Ellis T, Shaw W, et al., 2022, Inducible expression of large gRNA arrays for multiplexed CRISPRai applications, Nature Communications, Vol: 13, ISSN: 2041-1723
CRISPR gene activation and inhibition (CRISPRai) has become a powerful synthetic tool for influencing the expression of native genes for foundational studies, cellular reprograming, and metabolic engineering. Here we develop a method for near leak-free, inducible expression of a polycistronic array containing up to 24 gRNAs from two orthogonal CRISPR/Cas systems to increase CRISPRai multiplexing capacity and target gene flexibility. To achieve strong inducibility, we created a technology to silence gRNA expression within the array in the absence of the inducer, since we found that long gRNA arrays for CRISPRai can express themselves even without promoter. Using this method, we create a highly tuned and easy-to-use CRISPRai toolkit in the industrially relevant yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, establishing the first system to combine simultaneous activation and repression, large multiplexing capacity, and inducibility. We demonstrate this platform by targeting 11 genes in central metabolism in a single transformation, achieving a 45-fold increase in succinic acid, which could be precisely controlled in an inducible manner. Our method offers a highly effective way to regulate genes and rewire metabolism in yeast, with principles of gRNA array construction and inducibility that should extend to other chassis organisms.
Caro-Astorga J, Ellis T, 2021, Self-healing through adhesion, NATURE CHEMICAL BIOLOGY, Vol: 18, Pages: 239-240, ISSN: 1552-4450
Goosens V, Walker K, aragon S, et al., 2021, Komagataeibacter tool kit (KTK): a modular cloning system for multigene constructs and programmed protein secretion from cellulose producing bacteria, ACS Synthetic Biology, Vol: 10, Pages: 3422-3434, ISSN: 2161-5063
Bacteria proficient at producing cellulose are an attractive synthetic biology host for the emerging field of Engineered Living Materials (ELMs). Species from the Komagataeibacter genus produce high yields of pure cellulose materials in a short time with minimal resources, and pioneering work has shown that genetic engineering in these strains is possible and can be used to modify the material and its production. To accelerate synthetic biology progress in these bacteria, we introduce here the Komagataeibacter tool kit (KTK), a standardised modular cloning system based on Golden Gate DNA assembly that allows DNA parts to be combined to build complex multigene constructs expressed in bacteria from plasmids. Working in Komagataeibacter rhaeticus, we describe basic parts for this system, including promoters, fusion tags and reporter proteins, before showcasing how the assembly system enables more complex designs. Specifically, we use KTK cloning to reformat the Escherichia coli curli amyloid fibre system for functional expression in K. rhaeticus, and go on to modify it as a system for programming protein secretion from the cellulose producing bacteria. With this toolkit, we aim to accelerate modular synthetic biology in these bacteria, and enable more rapid progress in the emerging ELMs community.
Di Blasi R, Zouein A, Ellis T, et al., 2021, Genetic toolkits to design and build mammalian synthetic systems, Trends in Biotechnology, Vol: 39, Pages: 1004-1018, ISSN: 0167-7799
Construction of DNA-encoded programs is central to synthetic biology and the chosen method oftendetermines the time required to design and build constructs for testing. Here we describe and summarisekey features of the available toolkits for DNA construction for mammalian cells. We compare the differentcloning strategies based on their complexity and the time needed to generate constructs of different sizes,and we reflect on why Golden Gate toolkits now dominate due to their modular design. We look forward tofuture advances, including accessory packs to cloning toolkits that can facilitating editing, orthogonality,advanced regulation, and integration into synthetic chromosome construction.
Gallup O, Ming H, Ellis T, 2021, Ten future challenges for synthetic biology., Eng Biol, Vol: 5, Pages: 51-59
After 2 decades of growth and success, synthetic biology has now become a mature field that is driving significant innovation in the bioeconomy and pushing the boundaries of the biomedical sciences and biotechnology. So what comes next? In this article, 10 technological advances are discussed that are expected and hoped to come from the next generation of research and investment in synthetic biology; from ambitious projects to make synthetic life, cell simulators and custom genomes, through to new methods of engineering biology that use automation, deep learning and control of evolution. The non-exhaustive list is meant to inspire those joining the field and looks forward to how synthetic biology may evolve over the coming decades.
Caro-Astorga J, Walker KT, Herrera N, et al., 2021, Bacterial cellulose spheroids as building blocks for 3D and patterned living materials and for regeneration., Nature Communications, Vol: 12, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 2041-1723
Engineered living materials (ELMs) based on bacterial cellulose (BC) offer a promising avenue for cheap-to-produce materials that can be programmed with genetically encoded functionalities. Here we explore how ELMs can be fabricated in a modular fashion from millimetre-scale biofilm spheroids grown from shaking cultures of Komagataeibacter rhaeticus. Here we define a reproducible protocol to produce BC spheroids with the high yield bacterial cellulose producer K. rhaeticus and demonstrate for the first time their potential for their use as building blocks to grow ELMs in 3D shapes. Using genetically engineered K. rhaeticus, we produce functionalized BC spheroids and use these to make and grow patterned BC-based ELMs that signal within a material and can sense and report on chemical inputs. We also investigate the use of BC spheroids as a method to regenerate damaged BC materials and as a way to fuse together smaller material sections of cellulose and synthetic materials into a larger piece. This work improves our understanding of BC spheroid formation and showcases their great potential for fabricating, patterning and repairing ELMs based on the promising biomaterial of bacterial cellulose.
Lu X, Ellis T, 2021, Self-replicating digital data storage with synthetic chromosomes, NATIONAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2095-5138
Gilbert C, Tang T-C, Ott W, et al., 2021, Living materials with programmable functionalities grown from engineered microbial co-cultures, Nature Materials, Vol: 20, Pages: 691-700, ISSN: 1476-1122
Biological systems assemble living materials that are autonomously patterned, can self-repair and can sense and respond to their environment. The field of engineered living materials aims to create novel materials with properties similar to those of natural biomaterials using genetically-engineered organisms. Here we describe an approach to fabricate functional bacterial cellulose-based living materials using a stable co-culture of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast and bacterial cellulose-producing Komagataeibacter rhaeticus bacteria. Yeast strains can be engineered to secrete enzymes into bacterial cellulose, generating autonomously grown catalytic materials and enabling DNA-encoded modification of bacterial cellulose bulk properties. Alternatively, engineered yeast can be incorporated within the growing cellulose matrix, creating living materials that can sense and respond to chemical and optical stimuli. This symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast is a flexible platform for the production of bacterial cellulosed-based engineered living materials with potential applications in biosensing and biocatalysis.
Zorzan I, Lopez AR, Malyshava A, et al., 2021, Synthetic designs regulating cellular transitions: Fine-tuning of switches and oscillators, CURRENT OPINION IN SYSTEMS BIOLOGY, Vol: 25, Pages: 11-26, ISSN: 2452-3100
Liberante FG, Ellis T, 2021, From kilobases to megabases: Design and delivery of large DNA constructs into mammalian genomes, CURRENT OPINION IN SYSTEMS BIOLOGY, Vol: 25, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 2452-3100
Horby PW, Roddick A, Spata E, et al., 2021, Azithromycin in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (RECOVERY): a randomised, controlled, open-label, platform trial, The Lancet, Vol: 397, Pages: 605-612, ISSN: 0140-6736
BackgroundAzithromycin has been proposed as a treatment for COVID-19 on the basis of its immunomodulatory actions. We aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of azithromycin in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19.MethodsIn this randomised, controlled, open-label, adaptive platform trial (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy [RECOVERY]), several possible treatments were compared with usual care in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the UK. The trial is underway at 176 hospitals in the UK. Eligible and consenting patients were randomly allocated to either usual standard of care alone or usual standard of care plus azithromycin 500 mg once per day by mouth or intravenously for 10 days or until discharge (or allocation to one of the other RECOVERY treatment groups). Patients were assigned via web-based simple (unstratified) randomisation with allocation concealment and were twice as likely to be randomly assigned to usual care than to any of the active treatment groups. Participants and local study staff were not masked to the allocated treatment, but all others involved in the trial were masked to the outcome data during the trial. The primary outcome was 28-day all-cause mortality, assessed in the intention-to-treat population. The trial is registered with ISRCTN, 50189673, and ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04381936.FindingsBetween April 7 and Nov 27, 2020, of 16 442 patients enrolled in the RECOVERY trial, 9433 (57%) were eligible and 7763 were included in the assessment of azithromycin. The mean age of these study participants was 65·3 years (SD 15·7) and approximately a third were women (2944 [38%] of 7763). 2582 patients were randomly allocated to receive azithromycin and 5181 patients were randomly allocated to usual care alone. Overall, 561 (22%) patients allocated to azithromycin and 1162 (22%) patients allocated to usual care died within 28 days (rate ratio 0·97, 95% CI 0·87–1·07; p=0·50). No
Singh A, Walker K, Ledesma Amaro R, et al., 2020, Engineering bacterial cellulose by synthetic biology, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Vol: 21, ISSN: 1422-0067
Synthetic biology is an advanced form of genetic manipulation that applies the principles of modularity and engineering design to reprogram cells by changing their DNA. Over the last decade, synthetic biology has begun to be applied to bacteria that naturally produce biomaterials, in order to boost material production, change material properties and to add new functionalities to the resulting material. Recent work has used synthetic biology to engineer several Komagataeibacter strains; bacteria that naturally secrete large amounts of the versatile and promising material bacterial cellulose (BC). In this review, we summarize how genetic engineering, metabolic engineering and now synthetic biology have been used in Komagataeibacter strains to alter BC, improve its production and begin to add new functionalities into this easy-to-grow material. As well as describing the milestone advances, we also look forward to what will come next from engineering bacterial cellulose by synthetic biology.
Meng F, Ellis T, 2020, The second decade of synthetic biology: 2010-2020., Nature Communications, Vol: 11, Pages: 5174-5174, ISSN: 2041-1723
Synthetic biology is among the most hyped research topics this century, and in2010 it entered its teenage years. But rather than these being a problematictime, we’ve seen synthetic biology blossom and deliver many new technologiesand landmark achievements.
Caro-Astorga J, Walker KT, Ellis T, 2020, Bacterial cellulose spheroids as building blocks for 2D and 3D engineered living materials
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Engineered living materials (ELMs) based on bacterial cellulose (BC) offer a promising avenue for cheap-to-produce materials that can be programmed with genetically encoded functionalities. Here we explore how ELMs can be fabricated from millimetre-scale balls of cellulose occasionally produced by <jats:italic>Acetobacteriacea</jats:italic> species, which we call BC spheroids. We define a reproducible protocol to produce BC spheroids and demonstrate their potential for use as building blocks to grow ELMs in 2D and 3D shapes. These BC spheroids can be genetically functionalized and used as the method to make and grow patterned BC-based ELMs to design. We further demonstrate the use of BC spheroids for the repair and regeneration of BC materials, and measure the survival of the BC-producing bacteria in the material over time. This work forwards our understanding of BC spheroid formation and showcases their potential for creating and repairing engineered living materials.</jats:p>
Gowers G, Chee S, Bell D, et al., 2020, Improved betulinic acid biosynthesis using synthetic yeast chromosome recombination and semi-automated rapid LC-MS screening, Nature Communications, Vol: 11, ISSN: 2041-1723
Synthetic biology, genome engineering and directed evolution offer innumerable tools to expedite engineering of strains for optimising biosynthetic pathways. One of the most radical is SCRaMbLE, a system of inducible in vivo deletion and rearrangement of synthetic yeast chromosomes, diversifying the genotype of millions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells in hours. SCRaMbLE can yield strains with improved biosynthetic phenotypes but is limited by screening capabilities. To address this bottleneck, we combine automated sample preparation, an ultra-fast 84-second LC-MS method, and barcoded nanopore sequencing to rapidly isolate and characterise the best performing strains. Here, we use SCRaMbLE to optimise yeast strains engineered to produce the triterpenoid betulinic acid. Our semi-automated workflow screens 1,000 colonies, identifying and sequencing 12 strains with between 2- to 7-fold improvement in betulinic acid titre. The broad applicability of this workflow to rapidly isolate improved strains from a variant library makes this a valuable tool for biotechnology.
Gilbert C, Tang T-C, Ott W, et al., 2019, Living materials with programmable functionalities grown from engineered microbial co-cultures
<jats:title>ABSTRACT</jats:title><jats:p>Biological systems assemble tissues and structures with advanced properties in ways that cannot be achieved by man-made materials. Living materials self-assemble under mild conditions, are autonomously patterned, can self-repair and sense and respond to their environment. Inspired by this, the field of engineered living materials (ELMs) aims to use genetically-engineered organisms to generate novel materials. Bacterial cellulose (BC) is a biological material with impressive physical properties and low cost of production that is an attractive substrate for ELMs. Inspired by how plants build materials from tissues with specialist cells we here developed a system for making novel BC-based ELMs by addition of engineered yeast programmed to add functional traits to a cellulose matrix. This is achieved via a synthetic ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’ (Syn-SCOBY) approach that uses a stable co-culture of<jats:italic>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</jats:italic>with BC-producing<jats:italic>Komagataeibacter rhaeticus</jats:italic>bacetria. Our Syn-SCOBY approach allows inoculation of engineered cells into simple growth media, and under mild conditions materials self-assemble with genetically-programmable functional properties in days. We show that co-cultured yeast can be engineered to secrete enzymes into BC, generating autonomously grown catalytic materials and enabling DNA-encoded modification of BC bulk material properties. We further developed a method for incorporating<jats:italic>S. cerevisiae</jats:italic>within the growing cellulose matrix, creating living materials that can sense chemical and optical inputs. This enabled growth of living sensor materials that can detect and respond to environmental pollutants, as well as living films that grow images based on projected patterns. This novel and robust Syn-SCOBY system empowers the sustainable production of B
Gowers G-OF, Cameron SJS, Perdones-Montero A, et al., 2019, Off-colony screening of biosynthetic libraries by rapid laser-enabled mass spectrometry, ACS Synthetic Biology, Vol: 8, Pages: 2566-2575, ISSN: 2161-5063
Leveraging advances in DNA synthesis and molecular cloning techniques, synthetic biology increasingly makes use of large construct libraries to explore large design spaces. For biosynthetic pathway engineering the ability to screen these libraries for a variety of metabolites of interest is essential. If the metabolite of interest or the metabolic phenotype is not easily measurable, screening soon becomes a major bottleneck involving time-consuming culturing, sample preparation, and extraction. To address this, we demonstrate the use of automated Laser-Assisted Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (LA-REIMS) - a form of ambient laser desorption ionisation mass spectrometry - to perform rapid mass spectrometry analysis direct from agar plate yeast colonies without sample preparation or extraction. We use LA-REIMS to assess production levels of violacein and betulinic acid directly from yeast colonies at a rate of 6 colonies per minute. We then demonstrate the throughput enabled by LA-REIMS by screening over 450 yeast colonies in under 4 hours, while simultaneously generating recoverable glycerol stocks of each colony in real-time. This showcases LA-REIMS as a pre-screening tool to complement downstream quantification methods such as LCMS. Through pre-screening several hundred colonies with LA-REIMS, we successfully isolate and verify a strain with a 2.5-fold improvement in betulinic acid production. Finally, we show that LA-REIMS can detect 20 out of a panel of 27 diverse biological molecules, demonstrating the broad applicability of LA-REIMS to metabolite detection. The rapid and automated nature of LA-REIMS makes this a valuable new technology to complement existing screening technologies currently employed in academic and industrial workflows.
Gowers G-O, Vince O, Charles J-H, et al., 2019, Entirely off-grid and solar-powered DNA sequencing of microbial communities during an ice cap traverse expedition, Genes, Vol: 10, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 2073-4425
Microbial communities in remote locations remain under-studied. This is particularly true on glaciers and icecaps, which cover approximately 11% of the Earth’s surface. The principal reason for this is the inaccessibility of most of these areas due to their extreme isolation and challenging environmental conditions. While remote research stations have significantly lowered the barrier to studying the microbial communities on icecaps, their use has led to a bias for data collection in the near vicinity of these institutions. Here, miniaturisation of a DNA sequencing lab suitable for off-grid metagenomic studies is demonstrated. Using human power alone, this lab was transported across Europe’s largest ice cap (Vatnajökull, Iceland) by ski and sledge. After 11 days of unsupported polar-style travel, a metagenomic study of a geothermal hot spring gorge was conducted on the remote northern edge of the ice cap. This tent-based metagenomic study resulted in over 24 h of Nanopore sequencing, powered by solar power alone. This study demonstrates the ability to conduct DNA sequencing in remote locations, far from civilised resources (mechanised transport, external power supply, internet connection, etc.), whilst greatly reducing the time from sample collection to data acquisition.
Ostrov N, Beal J, Ellis T, et al., 2019, Technological challenges and milestones for writing genomes., Science, Vol: 366, Pages: 310-312, ISSN: 0036-8075
Engineering biology with recombinant DNA, broadly called synthetic biology, has progressed tremendously in the last decade, owing to continued industrialization of DNA synthesis, discovery and development of molecular tools and organisms, and increasingly sophisticated modeling and analytic tools. However, we have yet to understand the full potential of engineering biology because of our inability to write and test whole genomes, which we call synthetic genomics. Substantial improvements are needed to reduce the cost and increase the speed and reliability of genetic tools. Here, we identify emerging technologies and improvements to existing methods that will be needed in four major areas to advance synthetic genomics within the next 10 years: genome design, DNA synthesis, genome editing, and chromosome construction (see table). Similar to other large-scale projects for responsible advancement of innovative technologies, such as the Human Genome Project, an international, cross-disciplinary effort consisting of public and private entities will likely yield maximal return on investment and open new avenues of research and biotechnology.
Walker K, Goosens V, Das A, et al., 2019, Engineered cell-to-cell signalling within growing bacterial cellulose pellicles, Microbial Biotechnology, Vol: 12, Pages: 611-619, ISSN: 1751-7915
Bacterial cellulose is a strong and flexible biomaterial produced at high yields by Acetobacter species and has applications in health care, biotechnology and electronics. Naturally, bacterial cellulose grows as a large unstructured polymer network around the bacteria that produce it, and tools to enable these bacteria to respond to different locations are required to grow more complex structured materials. Here, we introduce engineered cell‐to‐cell communication into a bacterial cellulose‐producing strain of Komagataeibacter rhaeticus to enable different cells to detect their proximity within growing material and trigger differential gene expression in response. Using synthetic biology tools, we engineer Sender and Receiver strains of K. rhaeticus to produce and respond to the diffusible signalling molecule, acyl‐homoserine lactone. We demonstrate that communication can occur both within and between growing pellicles and use this in a boundary detection experiment, where spliced and joined pellicles sense and reveal their original boundary. This work sets the basis for synthetic cell‐to‐cell communication within bacterial cellulose and is an important step forward for pattern formation within engineered living materials.
Det-Udom R, Gilbert C, Liu L, et al., 2019, Towards semi-synthetic microbial communities: Enhancing soy sauce fermentation properties in B. subtilis co-cultures, Microbial Cell Factories, Vol: 18, ISSN: 1475-2859
BackgroundMany fermented foods and beverages are produced through the action of complex microbial communities. Synthetic biology approaches offer the ability to genetically engineer these communities to improve the properties of these fermented foods. Soy sauce is a fermented condiment with a vast global market. Engineering members of the microbial communities responsible for soy sauce fermentation may therefore lead to the development of improved products. One important property is the colour of soy sauce, with recent evidence pointing to a consumer preference for more lightly-coloured soy sauce products for particular dishes.ResultsHere we show that a bacterial member of the natural soy sauce fermentation microbial community, Bacillus, can be engineered to reduce the ‘browning’ reaction during soy sauce production. We show that two approaches result in ‘de-browning’: engineered consumption of xylose, an important precursor in the browning reaction, and engineered degradation of melanoidins, the major brown pigments in soy sauce. Lastly, we show that these two strategies work synergistically using co-cultures to result in enhanced de-browning.ConclusionsOur results demonstrate the potential of using synthetic biology and metabolic engineering methods for fine-tuning the process of soy sauce fermentation and indeed for many other natural food and beverage fermentations for improved products.
Rajakumar PD, Gower G, Suckling L, et al., 2019, Rapid prototyping platform for Saccharomyces cerevisiae using computer-aided genetic design enabled by parallel software and workcell platform development, Slas Technology, Vol: 24, Pages: 291-297, ISSN: 2472-6303
Biofoundries have enabled the ability to automate the construction of genetic constructs using computer-aided design. In this study, we have developed the methodology required to abstract and automate the construction of yeast-compatible designs. We demonstrate the use of our in-house software tool, AMOS, to coordinate with design software, JMP, and robotic liquid handling platforms to successfully manage the construction of a library of 88 yeast expression plasmids. In this proof-of-principle study, we used three fluorescent genes as proxy for three enzyme coding sequences. Our platform has been designed to quickly iterate around a design cycle of four protein coding sequences per plasmid, with larger numbers possible with multiplexed genome integrations in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This work highlights how developing scalable new biotechnology applications requires a close integration between software development, liquid handling robotics, and protocol development.
Ellis T, 2019, What is synthetic genomics anyway?, The Biochemist, Vol: 41, Pages: 6-9, ISSN: 0954-982X
You may have heard of synthetic genomics. This headline-grabbing, high-profile, big science topic is starting to emerge catalysed by the pioneering work of famous names in synthetic biology and biotechnology like George Church and Craig Venter. But what is synthetic genomics and what is it being used for? As a prominent researcher at a recent UK meeting said: “Is it just synthetic biology with bigger bits of DNA?” Well no, not quite…
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