Rxivist combines preprints from bioRxiv with data from Twitter to help you find the papers being discussed in your field. Currently indexing 64,772 bioRxiv papers from 287,133 authors.
Most downloaded bioRxiv papers, all time
in category synthetic biology
604 results found. For more information, click each entry to expand.
1,429 downloads synthetic biology
Efficient targeted insertion of heterologous DNA into a genome remains a challenge in genome engineering. Recombinases that can introduce kilobase-sized DNA constructs require pre-existing recombination sites to be present in the genome and are difficult to reprogram to other loci. Genome insertion using current CRISPR-Cas methods relies on host DNA repair machinery, which is generally inefficient. Here, we describe a Cas-Transposon (CasTn) system for genomic insertions that uses a transposase fused to a catalytically-dead dCas9 nuclease to mediate programmable, site-specific transposition. CasTn combines the power of the Himar1 transposase, which inserts multi-kb DNA transposons into TA dinucleotides by a cut-and-paste mechanism, and the targeting capability of Cas9, which uses guide-RNAs to bind to specific DNA sequences. Using in vitro assays, we demonstrated that Himar-dCas9 proteins increased the frequency of transposon insertions at a single targeted TA dinucleotide by >300-fold compared to an untargeted transposase, and that site-specific transposition is dependent on target choice while robust to log-fold variations in protein and DNA concentrations. We then showed that Himar-dCas9 mediates site-specific transposition into a target plasmid in E. coli. This work provides CasTn as a new method for host-independent, programmable, targeted DNA insertions to expand the genomic engineering toolbox.
1,411 downloads synthetic biology
A major hurdle in protein-based therapeutics is the interaction with the adaptive immune system, which can lead to neutralization by circulating antibodies and clearance of treated cells by cytotoxic T-lymphocytes. One method of circumventing these issues is to use human or humanized proteins which avoid the immune response by self-recognition. However, this approach limits potential protein therapeutics to those of human origin, excluding many exciting effectors and delivery vehicles such as CRISPR-Cas9 and adeno-associated viruses (AAVs). To address this issue, we propose here the sequential use of orthologous proteins whose function is constrained by natural selection, but whose structure is subject to diversification by genetic drift. This would, in principle, allow for repeated treatments by immune orthogonal orthologs without reduced efficacy due to lack of immune cross-reactivity among the proteins. To explore and validate this concept we chose 91 Type II CRISPR-Cas9 orthologs and 167 AAV capsid protein orthologs, and developed a pipeline to compare total sequence similarity as well as predicted binding to class I and class II Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) proteins. Interestingly, MHC binding predictions revealed wide diversity among the set of Cas9 orthologs, with 83% of pairs predicted to have non cross-reacting immune responses, while no global immune orthogonality among AAV serotypes was observed. To confirm these findings we selected two Cas9 orthologs, from S. pyogenes and S. aureus, predicted to be orthogonal in immune space, and delivered them into mice via multiple AAV serotypes. We observed cross-reacting antibodies against AAV but not Cas9 orthologs in sera from immunized mice, validating the computationally predicted immune orthogonality among these proteins. Moving forward, we anticipate this framework can be applied to prescribe sequential regimens of immune orthogonal protein therapeutics to circumvent pre-existing or induced immunity, and eventually, to rationally engineer immune orthogonality among protein orthologs.
1,409 downloads synthetic biology
Metabolic heterogeneity between individual cells of a population harbors offers significant challenges for fundamental and applied research. Identifying metabolic heterogeneity and investigating its emergence requires tools to zoom into metabolism of individual cells. While methods exist to measure metabolite levels in single cells, we lack capability to measure metabolic flux, i.e. the ultimate functional output of metabolic activity, on the single-cell level. Here, combining promoter engineering, computational protein design, biochemical methods, proteomics and metabolomics, we developed a biosensor to measure glycolytic flux in single yeast cells, by drawing on the robust cell-intrinsic correlation between glycolytic flux and levels of fructose-1,6-bisphosphate (FBP), and by transplanting the B. subtilis FBP-binding transcription factor CggR into yeast. As proof of principle, using fluorescence microscopy, we applied the sensor to identify metabolic subpopulations in yeast cultures. We anticipate that our biosensor will become a valuable tool to identify and study metabolic heterogeneity in cell populations.
1,355 downloads synthetic biology
Inflammation in the gut, caused by infection and autoimmunity, remains challenging to effectively detect, monitor, and treat. Here, we engineer a commensal mouse E. coli strain to record exposure to tetrathionate, a downstream product of reactive oxygen species generated during inflammation. Using these programmed bacteria to sense in situ levels we show that tetrathionate accompanies inflammation during Salmonella-induced colitis in mice and is elevated in an inflammatory bowel disease mouse model. We demonstrate long-term genetic stability and associated robust function of synthetic genetic circuits in bacteria colonizing the mammalian gut. These results demonstrate the potential for engineered bacteria to stably and reliably probe pathophysiological processes for which traditional diagnostics may not be feasible or cost-effective.
1,355 downloads synthetic biology
Genome-wide mutational screens are central to understanding the genetic underpinnings of evolved and engineered phenotypes. The widespread adoption of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing has enabled such screens in many organisms, but identifying functional sgRNAs still remains a challenge. To address this limitation, we developed a methodology to quantify the cutting efficiency of each sgRNA in a genome-scale library in the biotechnologically important yeast Yarrowia lipolytica. Screening in the presence and absence of native DNA repair enabled high-throughput quantification of sgRNA function leading to the identification of high efficiency sgRNAs that cover 94% of genes. Library validation enhanced the classification of essential genes by identifying inactive guides that create false negatives and mask the effects of successful disruptions. Quantification of guide effectiveness also creates a dataset from which functional determinants of CRISPR-Cas9 can be identified. Finally, application of the library identified mutations that led to high lipid accumulation and eliminated pseudohyphal morphology.
1,337 downloads synthetic biology
Intracellular protein copy numbers show significant cell-to-cell variability within an isogenic population due to the random nature of biological reactions. Here we show how the variability in copy number can be controlled by perturbing gene expression. Depending on the genetic network and host, different perturbations can be applied to control variability. To understand more fully how noise propagates and behaves in biochemical networks we developed stochastic control analysis (SCA) which is a sensitivity-based analysis framework for the study of noise control. Here we apply SCA to synthetic gene expression systems encoded on plasmids that are transformed into Escherichia coli. We show that (1) dual control of transcription and translation efficiencies provides the most efficient way of noise-vs.-mean control. (2) The expressed proteins follow the gamma distribution function as found in chromosomal proteins. (3) One of the major sources of noise, leading to the cell-to-cell variability in protein copy numbers, is related to bursty translation. (4) By taking into account stochastic fluctuations in autofluorescence, the correct scaling relationship between the noise and mean levels of the protein copy numbers was recovered for the case of weak fluorescence signals.
1,334 downloads synthetic biology
Synthetic biology is driving a new era of medicine through the genetic programming of living cells. This transformative approach allows for the creation of engineered systems that intelligently sense and respond to diverse environments, ultimately adding specificity and efficacy that extends beyond the capabilities of molecular-based therapeutics. One particular focus area has been the engineering of bacteria as therapeutic delivery systems to selectively release therapeutic payloads in vivo. Here, we engineered a non-pathogenic E. coli to specifically lyse within the tumor microenvironment and release an encoded nanobody antagonist of CD47 (CD47nb), an anti-phagocytic receptor commonly overexpressed in several human cancers. We show that intratumoral delivery of CD47nb by tumor-colonizing bacteria increases activation of tumor-infiltrating T cells, stimulates rapid tumor regression, prevents metastasis, and leads to long-term survival in a syngeneic tumor model. Moreover, we report that local injection of CD47nb bacteria stimulates systemic antitumor immune responses that reduce the growth of untreated tumors - providing, to the best of our knowledge, the first demonstration of an abscopal effect induced by a bacteria cancer therapy. Thus, engineered bacteria may be used for safe and local delivery of immunotherapeutic payloads leading to systemic antitumor immunity.
1,325 downloads synthetic biology
Gene synthesis, the process of assembling gene-length fragments from shorter groups of oligonucleotides (oligos), is becoming an increasingly important tool in molecular and synthetic biology. The length, quality, and cost of gene synthesis is limited by errors produced during oligo synthesis and subsequent assembly. Enzymatic error correction methods are cost-effective means to ameliorate errors in gene synthesis. Previous analyses of these methods relied on cloning and Sanger sequencing to evaluate their efficiencies, limiting quantitative assessment and throughput. Here we develop a method to quantify errors in synthetic DNA by next-generation sequencing. We analyzed errors in a model gene assembly and systematically compared six different error correction enzymes across 11 conditions. We find that ErrASE and T7 Endonuclease I are the most effective at decreasing average error rates (up to 5.8-fold relative to the input), whereas MutS is the best for increasing the number of perfect assemblies (up to 25.2-fold). We are able to quantify differential specificities such as ErrASE preferentially corrects C/G → G/C transversions whereas T7 Endonuclease I preferentially corrects A/T → T/A transversions. More generally, this experimental and computational pipeline is a fast, scalable, and extensible way to analyze errors in gene assemblies, to profile error correction methods, and to benchmark DNA synthesis methods.
1,303 downloads synthetic biology
Gene drives may be capable of addressing ecological problems by altering entire populations of wild organisms, but their use has remained largely theoretical due to technical constraints. Here we consider the potential for RNA-guided gene drives based on the CRISPR nuclease Cas9 to serve as a general method for spreading altered traits through wild populations over many generations. We detail likely capabilities, discuss limitations, and provide novel precautionary strategies to control the spread of gene drives and reverse genomic changes. The ability to edit populations of sexual species would offer substantial benefits to humanity and the environment. For example, RNA-guided gene drives could potentially prevent the spread of disease, support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds, and control damaging invasive species. However, the possibility of unwanted ecological effects and near-certainty of spread across political borders demand careful assessment of each potential application. We call for thoughtful, inclusive, and well-informed public discussions to explore the responsible use of this currently theoretical technology.
1,286 downloads synthetic biology
In mammalian cells, transient gene expression (TGE) is a rapid, minimal-investment alternative to single-copy integrations for testing of transgenic constructs. However, transient gene expression, as measured by flow cytometry with a fluorescent reporter, typically displays a broad, asymmetric distribution with a left-tail that is convolved with background signal. Common approaches for deriving a summary statistic for transiently expressed gene products impose a normal distribution on gated or ungated data. Summary statistics derived from these models are heavily biased by experimental conditions and instrument settings that are difficult to replicate and insufficient to accurately describe the underlying data. Here, we present a convolved gamma distribution as a superior model for TGE datasets. The 4-6 parameters of this model are sufficient to accurately describe the entire, ungated distribution of transiently transfected HEK cells expressing monomeric fluorescent proteins, that operates consistently across a range of transfection conditions and instrument settings. Based on these observations, a convolved gamma model of TGE distributions has the potential to significantly improve the accuracy and reproducibility of genetic device characterization in mammalian cells.
1,283 downloads synthetic biology
Synthetic biology has enabled the development of powerful nucleic acid diagnostic technologies for detecting pathogens and human health biomarkers. Here we expand the reach of synthetic biology-enabled diagnostics by developing a cell-free biosensing platform that uses RNA output sensors activated by ligand induction (ROSALIND) to detect harmful contaminants in aqueous samples. ROSALIND consists of three programmable components: highly-processive RNA polymerases, allosteric transcription factors, and synthetic DNA transcription templates. Together, these components allosterically regulate the in vitro transcription of a fluorescence-activating RNA aptamer: in the absence of a target compound, transcription is blocked, while in its presence a fluorescent signal is produced. We demonstrate that ROSALIND can be configured to detect a range of water contaminants, including antibiotics, toxic small molecules, and metals. Our cell-free biosensing platform, which can be freeze-dried for field deployment, creates a new capability for point-of-use monitoring of molecular species to address growing global crises in water quality and human health.
1,275 downloads synthetic biology
We describe a synthetic genetic circuit for controlling asymmetric cell division in E. coli in which a progenitor cell creates a differentiated daughter cell while retaining its original phenotype. Specifically, we engineered an inducible system that can bind and segregate plasmid DNA to a single position in the cell. Upon cell division, co-localized plasmids are kept by one and only one of the daughter cells. The other daughter cell receives no plasmid DNA and is hence irreversibly differentiated from its sibling. In this way, we achieved asymmetric cell division through asymmetric plasmid partitioning. We then used this system to achieve physical separation of genetically distinct cells by tying motility to differentiation. Finally, we characterized an orthogonal inducible circuit that enables the simultaneous asymmetric partitioning of two plasmid species, resulting in cells that have four distinct differentiated states. These results point the way towards engineering multicellular systems from prokaryotic hosts.
1,272 downloads synthetic biology
In this study, an Escherichia coli (E. coli) based transcription translation cell-free system (TX-TL) was employed to sample various enzyme expression levels of the violacein pathway. The pathway was successfully reconstructed in TX-TL. Its variation produced different metabolites as evident from the extracts assorted colors. Analysis of the violacein product via UV-Vis absorption and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) detected 68 nanograms of violacein per 10 microliters reaction volume. Significant buildup of prodeoxyviolacein intermediate was also detected in the equimolar TX-TL reaction. Finally, design space exploration experiments suggested an improvement in violacein production at high VioC and VioD DNA concentrations.
1,246 downloads synthetic biology
RNA-RNA assembly governs key biological processes and is a powerful tool for engineering synthetic genetic circuits. Characterizing RNA assembly in living cells often involves monitoring fluorescent reporter proteins, which are at best indirect measures of underlying RNA-RNA hybridization events and are subject to additional temporal and load constraints associated with translation and activation of reporter proteins. In contrast, RNA aptamers that sequester small molecule dyes and activate their fluorescence are increasingly utilized in genetically-encoded strategies to report on RNA-level events. Split-aptamer systems have been rationally designed to generate signal upon hybridization of two or more discrete RNA transcripts, but none directly function when expressed in vivo. We reasoned that the improved physiological properties of the Broccoli aptamer enable construction of a split-aptamer system that could function in living cells. Here we present the Split-Broccoli system, in which self-assembly is nucleated by a thermostable, three-way junction RNA architecture and fluorescence activation requires both strands. Functional assembly of the system approximately follows second order kinetics in vitro and improves when cotranscribed, rather than when assembled from purified components. Split-Broccoli fluorescence is digital in vivo and retains functional modularity when fused to RNAs that regulate circuit function through RNA-RNA hybridization, as demonstrated with an RNA Toehold switch. Split-Broccoli represents the first functional split-aptamer system to operate in vivo. It offers a genetically-encoded and nondestructive platform to monitor and exploit RNA-RNA hybridization, whether as an all-RNA, stand-alone AND gate or as a tool for monitoring assembly of RNA-RNA hybrids.
1,235 downloads synthetic biology
Current methods for assembling metabolic pathways require a process of repeated trial and error and have a long design-build-test cycle. Further, it remains a challenge to precisely tune enzyme expression levels for maximizing target metabolite production. Recently it was shown that a cell-free transcriptional-translation system (TX-TL) can be used to rapidly prototype novel complex biocircuits as well as metabolic pathways. TX-TL systems allow protein expression from multiple DNA pieces, opening up the possibility of modulating concentrations of DNA encoding individual pathway enzymes and testing the related effect on metabolite production. In this work, we demonstrate TX-TL as a platform for exploring the design space of metabolic pathways using a 1,4-BDO biosynthesis pathway as an example. Using TX-TL, we verified enzyme expression and enzyme activity and identified the conversion of 4-hydroxybutyrate to downstream metabolites as a limiting step of the 1,4-BDO pathway. We further tested combinations of various enzyme expression levels and found increasing downstream enzyme expression levels improved 1,4-BDO production.
1,207 downloads synthetic biology
The study of intricate cellular and developmental processes in the context of complex multicellular organisms is difficult because it can require the non-destructive observation of thousands, millions, or even billions of cells deep within an animal. To address this difficulty, several groups have recently reported CRISPR-based DNA recorders that convert transient cellular experiences and processes into changes in the genome, which can then be read by sequencing in high-throughput. However, existing DNA recorders act primarily by erasing DNA: they use the random accumulation of CRISPR-induced deletions to record information. This is problematic because in the limit of progressive deletion, no record remains. Here, we present a new type of DNA recorder that acts primarily by writing new DNA. Our system, called CHYRON (Cell HistorY Recording by Ordered iNsertion), inserts random nucleotides at a single locus in temporal order in vivo and can be applied as an evolving lineage tracer as well as a recorder of user-selected cellular stimuli. As a lineage tracer, CHYRON allowed us to perfectly reconstruct the population lineage relationships among 16 groups of human cells descended from four starting groups that were subject to a series of splitting steps. In this experiment, CHYRON progressively wrote and retained base insertions in 20% percent of cells where the average amount written was 8.4 bp (~14.5 bits), reflecting high information content and density. As a stimulus recorder, we showed that when the CHYRON machinery was placed under the control of a stress-responsive promoter, the frequency and length of writing reflected the dose and duration of the stress. We believe CHYRON represents a conceptual advance in DNA recording technologies where writing rather than erasing becomes the primary mode of information accumulation. With further engineering of CHYRON’s components to increase writing efficiency, CHYRON should lead to single-cell-resolution recording of lineage and other information through long periods of time in complex animals or tumors, advancing the pursuit of a full picture of mammalian development. * CRISPR : clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat, DNA : deoxyribonucleic acid, CHYRON : cell history recording by ordered insertion, bp : base pair (of DNA), TdT : terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase, hgRNA : homing guide ribonucleic acid, stgRNA : selftargeting guide RNA, Cas9 : CRISPR-associated 9, GFP : green fluorescent protein, DSB : double-strand break (in DNA), nt : nucleotide (of DNA or RNA), sgRNA : single-guide RNA, stdev : standard deviation.
1,201 downloads synthetic biology
Over the past few years, tools that make use of the Cas9 nuclease have led to many breakthroughs, including in the control of gene expression. The catalytically dead variant of Cas9 known as dCas9 can be guided by small RNAs to block transcription of target genes, in a strategy also known as CRISPRi. Here, we reveal that the level of complementarity between the guide RNA and the target controls the rate at which dCas9 successfully blocks the RNA polymerase. We use this mechanism to precisely and robustly reduce gene expression by defined relative amounts. We demonstrate broad applicability of this method to the study of genetic regulation and cellular physiology. First, we characterize feedback strength of a model auto-repressor. Second, we study the impact of copy-number variations of cell-wall synthesizing enzymes on cell morphology. Finally, we demonstrate that this system can be multiplexed to obtain any combination of fractional repression of two genes.
1,201 downloads synthetic biology
G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling is the primary method eukaryotes use to respond to specific cues in their environment. However, the relationship between stimulus and response for each GPCR is difficult to predict due to diversity in natural signal transduction architecture and expression. Using genome engineering in yeast, we here constructed an insulated, modular GPCR signal transduction system to study how the response to stimuli can be predictably tuned using synthetic tools. We delineated the contributions of a minimal set of key components via computational and experimental refactoring, identifying simple design principles for rationally tuning the dose-response. Using four different receptors, we demonstrate how this enables cells and consortia to be engineered to respond to desired concentrations of peptides, metabolites and hormones relevant to human health. This work enables rational tuning of cell sensing, while providing a framework to guide reprogramming of GPCR-based signaling in more complex systems.
1,201 downloads synthetic biology
Vibrio natriegens has recently emerged as an alternative to Escherichia coli for molecular biology and biotechnology, but low-efficiency genetic tools hamper its development. Here, we uncover how to induce natural competence in V. natriegens and describe methods for multiplex genome editing by natural transformation (MuGENT). MuGENT promotes integration of multiple genome edits at high-efficiency on unprecedented timescales. Also, this method allows for generating highly complex mutant populations, which can be exploited for metabolic engineering efforts. As a proof-of-concept, we attempted to enhance production of the value added chemical poly-β-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) in V. natriegens by targeting the expression of nine genes involved in PHB biosynthesis via MuGENT. Within 1 week, we isolated edited strains that produced ~100 times more PHB than the parent isolate and ~3.3 times more than a rationally designed strain. Thus, the methods described here should extend the utility of this species for diverse academic and industrial applications.
1,200 downloads synthetic biology
As a field, synthetic biology strives to engineer increasingly complex artificial systems in living cells. Active feedback in closed loop systems offers a dynamic and adaptive way to ensure constant relative activity independent of intrinsic and extrinsic noise. In this work, we de- sign, model, and implement a biomolecular concentration tracker, in which an output protein tracks the concentration of an input protein. Using synthetic scaffolds built from small, mod- ular protein-protein interaction domains to colocalize a two-component system, the circuit design relies on a single negative feedback loop to modulate the production of the output protein. Using a combination of modeling and experimental work, we show that the circuit achieves real-time protein concentration tracking in Escherichia coli and that steady state outputs can be tuned.
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