There have been a number of interesting stories recently that I have been meaning to write about, but time has got the better of me. There is a growing list of ‘draft’ posts at The 4th Domain, so I thought I would roll them all into one post and let you pick out what you find interesting (the weird stuff is at the end).
First up, the “Design of a dynamic sensor-regulator system for production of chemicals and fuels derived from fatty acids” from Fuzhong Zhang, James Carothers and Jay Keasling reported in Nature Biotechnology. This system uses an endogenous transcriptional regulation system to control the expression of introduced genes for biofuel production. The result is self-regulation of gene expression, determined by the concentration of the key substrate, resulting in increased yields.
The DSRS uses a transcription factor that senses a key intermediate and dynamically regulates the expression of genes involved in biodiesel production. This DSRS substantially improved the stability of biodiesel-producing strains and increased the titer to 1.5 g/l and the yield threefold to 28% of the theoretical maximum.
Also of interest was the description of “Remotely-activated protein-producing nano particles” in Nano Letters, complete with a précis at Nature.
The nanoparticles consist of lipid vesicles filled with the cellular machinery responsible for transcription and translation, including amino acids, ribosomes, and DNA caged with a photo-labile protecting group. These particles served as nano-factories capable of producing proteins including green fluorescent protein (GFP) and enzymatically-active luciferase.
It is suggested that this technology might one day be deployed for drug delivery (alternative drug delivery techniques are available).
Meanwhile, (for those interested in cellular hardware, rather than software) a report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society from Itay Budin and Neal Devaraj created a fair bit interest when they described the production of an artificial cell membrane. The paper is here: “Membrane assembly driven by a biomimetic coupling reaction“.
Over at PloS ONE there was a description of biobrick assembly of a eukaryotic expression vector by Marco Constante, Raik Grünberg and Mark Isalan, “A biobrick library for cloning custom eukaryotic plasmids“.
Researchers often require customised variations of plasmids that are not commercially available. Here we demonstrate the applicability and versatility of standard synthetic biological parts (biobricks) to build custom plasmids. For this purpose we have built a collection of 52 parts that include multiple cloning sites (MCS) and common protein tags, protein reporters and selection markers, amongst others. Importantly, most of the parts are designed in a format to allow fusions that maintain the reading frame.
There was also the evolution of XNA – rather than DNA and RNA (best summed up by Ed Yong here), growing cities for the future – a future where cities aren’t built, but instead are grown like plants or baked like bread – and turning a human cell into a living laser.
Hopefully there is something in that lot to pique your interest.