Matching Items (28)

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CRISPR Based Synthetic Transcription Factors: The Future of Transcriptional Therapeutics

Description

Pinpoint control over endogenous gene expression in vivo has long been a fevered dream for clinicians and researchers alike. With the recent repurposing of programmable, RNA-guided DNA endonucleases from the

Pinpoint control over endogenous gene expression in vivo has long been a fevered dream for clinicians and researchers alike. With the recent repurposing of programmable, RNA-guided DNA endonucleases from the CRISPR bacterial immune system, this dream is becoming a powerful reality. Engineered CRISPR based transcriptional regulators have enabled researchers to perturb endogenous gene expression in vivo, allowing for the therapeutic reprogramming of cell and tissue behavior. However, for this technology to be of maximal use, a variety of technological hurdles still need to be addressed. Here, we discuss recent advances and integrative strategies that can help pave the way towards a new class of transcriptional therapeutics.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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A Novel Bacterial Response to an ATP Sequestering Protein in Escherichia coli is controlled by the Stringent Response

Description

Bacteria have been shown to possess a large array of regulatory mechanisms to not just respond to a diverse array of environmental stresses, but to injurious artificial proteins as well.

Bacteria have been shown to possess a large array of regulatory mechanisms to not just respond to a diverse array of environmental stresses, but to injurious artificial proteins as well. A previous investigation introduced DX, a man-made ATP sequestering protein into Escherichia coli (E. coli) which resulted in the formation of novel endoliposome structures and induced a viable but non-culturable state (VBNC) that was not easily reversed. It was hypothesized that the broadly conserved bacterial stringent response pathway may have been responsible for the observed phenotypic changes. With the goal of unveiling the molecular mechanism behind this novel response, changes in cellular morphology and physiology upon DX expression were assessed in a population of E. coli encoding a dysfunctional relA gene, one of the two genes controlling the induction of the stringent response. It was ultimately shown that RelA directly contributed to cellular filamentation, endoliposome structure formation, and the induction of a VBNC state. While the stringent response has been extensively shown to induce a VBNC state, to our knowledge, relA has not yet been shown to induce filamentation or coordinate the formation of endoliposome structures in bacteria. As the stringent response has been shown to be increasingly involved in antibiotic tolerance, this study provided an exciting opportunity to further characterize this adaptive response pathway to aid in the future development of novel therapeutics. In addition to this, this study continued to highlight that the DX protein may serve one of the first tools to allow for the direct selection of bacteria in a VBNC state by morphologically distinguishing non-culturable cells through cellular filamentation.

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Date Created
  • 2014-12

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Engineering a Co-Culture of Bacteria and Yeast for the Production of Renewable p-Coumaric Acid

Description

p-Coumaric acid is used in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries due to its versatile properties. While prevalent in nature, harvesting the compound from natural sources is inefficient, requiring large

p-Coumaric acid is used in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries due to its versatile properties. While prevalent in nature, harvesting the compound from natural sources is inefficient, requiring large quantities of producing crops and numerous extraction and purification steps. Thus, the large-scale production of the compound is both difficult and costly. This research aims to produce p-coumarate directly from renewable and sustainable glucose using a co-culture of Yeast and E. Coli. Methods used in this study include: designing optimal media for mixed-species microbial growth, genetically engineering both strains to build the production pathway with maximum yield, and analyzing the presence of p-Coumarate and its pathway intermediates using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). To date, the results of this project include successful integration of C4H activity into the yeast strain BY4741 ∆FDC1, yielding a strain that completely consumed trans-cinnamate (initial concentration of 50 mg/L) and produced ~56 mg/L p-coumarate, a resting cell assay of the co-culture that produced 0.23 mM p-coumarate from an initial L-Phenylalanine concentration of 1.14 mM, and toxicity tests that confirmed the toxicity of trans-cinnamate to yeast for concentrations above ~50 mg/L. The hope for this project is to create a feasible method for producing p-Coumarate sustainably.

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Date Created
  • 2016-12

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Translational Regulation using Artificial Introns and ncRNAs

Description

Synthetic biology is an emerging engineering disciple, which designs and controls biological systems for creation of materials, biosensors, biocomputing, and much more. To better control and engineer these systems, modular

Synthetic biology is an emerging engineering disciple, which designs and controls biological systems for creation of materials, biosensors, biocomputing, and much more. To better control and engineer these systems, modular genetic components which allow for highly specific and high dynamic range genetic regulation are necessary. Currently the field struggles to demonstrate reliable regulators which are programmable and specific, yet also allow for a high dynamic range of control. Inspired by the characteristics of the RNA toehold switch in E. coli, this project attempts utilize artificial introns and complementary trans-acting RNAs for gene regulation in a eukaryote host, S. cerevisiae. Following modification to an artificial intron, splicing control with RNA hairpins was demonstrated. Temperature shifts led to increased protein production likely due to increased splicing due to hairpin loosening. Progress is underway to demonstrate trans-acting RNA interaction to control splicing. With continued development, we hope to provide a programmable, specific, and effective means for translational gene regulation in S. cerevisae.

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Date Created
  • 2018-05

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A Synthetic Gene for Detecting Epigenetic Changes in Live Human Cells

Description

Current research into live-cell dynamics, particularly those relating to chromatin structure and remodeling, are limited. The tools that are used to detect state changes in chromatin, such as Chromatin Immunoprecipitation

Current research into live-cell dynamics, particularly those relating to chromatin structure and remodeling, are limited. The tools that are used to detect state changes in chromatin, such as Chromatin Immunoprecipitation and qPCR, require that the cell be killed off. This limits the ability of researchers to pinpoint changes in live cells over a longer period of time. As such, there is a need for a live-cell sensor that can detect chromatin state changes. The Chromometer is a transgenic chromatin state sensor designed to better understand human cell fate and the chromatin changes that occur. HOXD11.12, a DNA sequence that attracts repressive Polycomb group (PCG) proteins, was placed upstream of a core promoter-driven fluorescent reporter (AmCyan fluorescent protein, CFP) to link chromatin repression to a CFP signal. The transgene was stably inserted at an ectopic site in U2-OS (osteosarcoma) cells. Expression of CFP should reflect the epigenetic state at the HOXD locus, where several genes are regulated by Polycomb to control cell differentiation. U2-OS cells were transfected with the transgene and grown under selective pressure. Twelve colonies were identified as having integrated parts from the transgene into their genomes. PCR testing verified 2 cell lines that contain the complete transgene. Flow cytometry indicated mono-modal and bimodal populations in all transgenic cell colonies. Further research must be done to determine the effectiveness of this device as a sensor for live cell state change detection.

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Date Created
  • 2016-05

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Identification of aromatic-inducible promoters and heterologous biosensors as tuning elements for styrene production in E. coli

Description

One of the primary bottlenecks to chemical production in biological organisms is the toxicity of the chemical. Overexpression of efflux pumps has been shown to increase tolerance to aromatic compounds

One of the primary bottlenecks to chemical production in biological organisms is the toxicity of the chemical. Overexpression of efflux pumps has been shown to increase tolerance to aromatic compounds such as styrene and styrene oxide. Tight control of pump expression is necessary to maximize titers and prevent excessive strain on the cells. This study aimed to identify aromatic-sensitive native promoters and heterologous biosensors for construction of closed-loop control of efflux pump expression in E. coli. Using a promoter library constructed by Zaslaver et al., activation was measured through GFP output. Promoters were evaluated for their sensitivity to the addition of one of four aromatic compounds, their "leaking" of signal, and their induction threshold. Out of 43 targeted promoters, 4 promoters (cmr, mdtG, yahN, yajR) for styrene oxide, 2 promoters (mdtG, yahN) for styrene, 0 promoters for 2-phenylethanol, and 1 promoter for phenol (pheP) were identified as ideal control elements in aromatic bioproduction. In addition, a series of three biosensors (NahR, XylS, DmpR) known to be inducible by other aromatics were screened against styrene oxide, 2-phenylethanol, and phenol. The targeted application of these biosensors is aromatic-induced activation of linked efflux pumps. All three biosensors responded strongly in the presence of styrene oxide and 2-phenylethanol, with minor activation in the presence of phenol. Bioproduction of aromatics continues to gain traction in the biotechnology industry, and the continued discovery of aromatic-inducible elements will be essential to effective pathway control.

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Date Created
  • 2018-05

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Development of a Polyethylene terephthalate Hydrolase Expression System in Escherichia coli

Description

The increased shift towards environmentalism has brought notable attention to a universal excessive plastic consumption and subsequent plastic overload in landfills. Among these plastics, polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly known as

The increased shift towards environmentalism has brought notable attention to a universal excessive plastic consumption and subsequent plastic overload in landfills. Among these plastics, polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly known as PET, constitutes a large percentage of the waste that ends up in landfills. Material and chemical/thermal methods for recycling are both costly, and inefficient, which necessitates a more sustainable and cheaper alternative. The current study aims at fulfilling that role through genetic engineering of Bacillus subtilis with integration of genes from LCC, Ideonella sakaiensis, and Bacillus subtilis. The plasmid construction was done through restriction cloning. A recombinant plasmid for the expression of LCC was constructed, and transformed into Escherichia coli. Future experiments for this study should include redesigning of primers, with possible combination of signal peptides with genes during construct design, and more advanced assays for effective outcomes.

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Date Created
  • 2021-05

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Validating a Model for Catalytic Function in 9°N Polymerase Based on Structural Conservation

Description

Nucleic acids encode the information required to create life, and polymerases are the gatekeepers charged with maintaining the storage and flow of this genetic information. Synthetic biologists utilize this universal

Nucleic acids encode the information required to create life, and polymerases are the gatekeepers charged with maintaining the storage and flow of this genetic information. Synthetic biologists utilize this universal property to modify organisms and other systems to create unique traits or improve the function of others. One of the many realms in synthetic biology involves the study of biopolymers that do not exist naturally, which is known as xenobiology. Although life depends on two biopolymers for genetic storage, it may be possible that alternative molecules (xenonucleic acids – XNAs), could be used in their place in either a living or non-living system. However, implementation of an XNA based system requires the development of polymerases that can encode and decode information stored in these artificial polymers. A strategy called directed evolution is used to modify or alter the function of a protein of interest, but identifying mutations that can modify polymerase function is made problematic by their size and overall complexity. To reduce the amount of sequence space that needs to be samples when attempting to identify polymerase variants, we can try to make informed decisions about which amino acid residues may have functional roles in catalysis. An analysis of Family B polymerases has shown that residues which are involved in substrate specificity are often highly conserved both at the sequence and structure level. In order to validate the hypothesis that a strong correlation exists between structural conservation and catalytic activity, we have selected and mutated residues in the 9°N polymerase using a loss of function mutagenesis strategy based on a computational analysis of several homologues from a diverse range of taxa. Improvement of these models will hopefully lead to quicker identification of loci which are ideal engineering targets.

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Date Created
  • 2015-05

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RNA-Guided Modification of Synthetic Gene Networks Using CRISPR-Cas Systems

Description

The ability to edit chromosomal regions is an important tool for the study of gene function and the ability to engineer synthetic gene networks. CRISPR-Cas systems, a bacterial RNA-guided immune

The ability to edit chromosomal regions is an important tool for the study of gene function and the ability to engineer synthetic gene networks. CRISPR-Cas systems, a bacterial RNA-guided immune system against foreign nucleic acids, have recently been engineered for a plethora of genome engineering and transcriptional regulation applications. Here we employ engineered variants of CRISPR systems in proof-of-principle experiments demonstrating the ability of CRISPR-Cas derived single-DNA-strand cutting enzymes (nickases) to direct host-cell genomic recombination. E.coli is generally regarded as a poorly recombinogenic host with double-stranded DNA breaks being highly lethal. However, CRISPR-guided nickase systems can be easily programmed to make very precise, non-lethal, incisions in genomic regions directing both single reporter gene and larger-scale recombination events deleting up to 36 genes. Genome integrated repetitive elements of variable sizes can be employed as sites for CRISPR induced recombination. We project that single-stranded based editing methodologies can be employed alongside preexisting genome engineering techniques to assist and expedite metabolic engineering and minimalized genome research.

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Date Created
  • 2014-05

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ENGINEERING SYNTHETIC CHROMATIN TRANSCRIPTION FACTORS

Description

Transgene expression in mammalian cells has been shown to meet resistance in the form of silencing due to chromatin buildup within the cell. Interactions of proteins with chromatin modulate gene

Transgene expression in mammalian cells has been shown to meet resistance in the form of silencing due to chromatin buildup within the cell. Interactions of proteins with chromatin modulate gene expression profiles. Synthetic Polycomb transcription factor (PcTF) variants have the potential to reactivate these silence transgenes as shown in Haynes & Silver 2011. PcTF variants have been constructed via TypeIIS assembly to further investigate this ability to reactive transgenes. Expression in mammalian cells was confirmed via fluorescence microscopy and red fluorescent protein (RFP) expression in cell lysate. Examination of any variation in conferment of binding strength of homologous Polycomb chromodomains (PCDs) to its trimethylated lysine residue target on histone three (H3K27me3) was investigated using a thermal shift assay. Results indicate that PcTF may not be a suitable protein for surveying with SYPRO Orange, a dye that produces a detectable signal when exposed to the hydrophobic domains of the melting protein. A cell line with inducible silencing of a chemiluminescent protein was used to determine the effects PcTF variants had on gene reactivation. Results show down-regulation of the target reporter gene. We propose this may be due to PcTF not binding to its target; this would cause PcTF to deplete transcriptional machinery in the nucleus. Alternatively, the CMV promoter could be sequestering transcriptional machinery in its hyperactive transcription of PcTF leading to widespread down-regulation. Finally, the activation domain used may not be appropriate for this cell type. Future PcTF variants will address these hypotheses by including multiple Polycomb chromodomains (PCDs) to alter the binding dynamics of PcTF to its target, and by incorporating alternative promoters and activation domains.

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Date Created
  • 2015-05