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Trends in Biotechnology
This journal offers authors two options (open access or subscription) to publish research

Sep 01, 2021

Volume 39Issue 9p853-964, e1-e2
The activities of biological parts like genes and proteins can be harnessed and repurposed for sensing applications. By encapsulating these parts within a self-contained chassis, cell-like particles can be designed that can move through complex, water-based environments. In pages 927–939 of this issue, Boyd and Kamat discuss how, by incorporating a variety of naturally and synthetically derived components, artificial cells may ultimately be engineered to detect a wide array of biological and environmental signals, providing new probes to explore environmental, health-related, and technological questions. Cover image by Margrethe Boyd....
The activities of biological parts like genes and proteins can be harnessed and repurposed for sensing applications. By encapsulating these parts within a self-contained chassis, cell-like particles can be designed that can move through complex, water-based environments. In pages 927–939 of this issue, Boyd and Kamat discuss how, by incorporating a variety of naturally and synthetically derived components, artificial cells may ultimately be engineered to detect a wide array of biological and environmental signals, providing new probes to explore environmental, health-related, and technological questions. Cover image by Margrethe Boyd.

Science & Society

  • Gene Drive-Modified Organisms: Developing Practical Risk Assessment Guidance

    • Yann Devos,
    • Michael B. Bonsall,
    • Leslie G. Firbank,
    • John Mumford,
    • Fabien Nogué,
    • Ernst A. Wimmer
    Risk assessors, risk managers, developers, potential applicants, and other stakeholders at many levels discuss the need for new or further risk assessment guidance for deliberate environmental releases of gene drive-modified organisms. However, preparing useful and practical guidance entails challenges, to which we offer recommendations based on our experience drafting guidance.

Forum

  • Carotenoid Biofortification of Crops in the CRISPR Era

    • Xiongjie Zheng,
    • Hendrik N.J. Kuijer,
    • Salim Al-Babili
    Carotenoids are micronutrients important for human health. The continuous improvements in clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-based genome-editing techniques make rapid, DNA/transgene-free and targeted multiplex genetic modification a reality, thus promising to accelerate the breeding and generation of ‘golden’ staple crops. We discuss here the progress and future prospects of CRISPR/Cas9 applications for carotenoid biofortification.
  • Error-Free Synthetic DNA by Molecular Dictation

    • Philipp Knyphausen,
    • Laurens Lindenburg,
    • Florian Hollfelder
    Synthetic DNA is the linchpin of the rapidly accelerating biotechnological era and is perhaps the most promising candidate for long-term digital data storage. Despite huge advances, manufacturing error-free DNA at low cost and high throughput remains challenging. Borrowing from well-established sequencing-by-synthesis technologies, we describe a new solution for DNA error correction.

Opinion

  • Build a Sustainable Vaccines Industry with Synthetic Biology

    • Richard I. Kitney,
    • Jennifer Bell,
    • Jim Philp
    The vaccines industry has not changed appreciably in decades regarding technology, and has struggled to remain viable, with large companies withdrawing from production. Meanwhile, there has been no let-up in outbreaks of viral disease, at a time when the biopharmaceuticals industry is discussing downsizing. The distributed manufacturing model aligns well with this, and the advent of synthetic biology promises much in terms of vaccine design. Biofoundries separate design from manufacturing, a hallmark of modern engineering.

Reviews

  • Biocatalysis in Green and Blue: Cyanobacteria

    • Julia Jodlbauer,
    • Thomas Rohr,
    • Oliver Spadiut,
    • Marko D. Mihovilovic,
    • Florian Rudroff
    Recently, several studies have proven the potential of cyanobacteria as whole-cell biocatalysts for biotransformation. Compared to heterotrophic hosts, cyanobacteria show unique advantages thanks to their photoautotrophic metabolism. Their ability to use light as energy and CO2 as carbon source promises a truly sustainable production platform. Their photoautotrophic metabolism offers an encouraging source of reducing power, which makes them attractive for redox-based biotechnological purposes. To exploit the full potential of these whole-cell biocatalysts, cyanobacterial cells must be considered in their entirety.
  • RNA-Centric Methods: Toward the Interactome of Specific RNA Transcripts

    • Cathrin Gräwe,
    • Suzan Stelloo,
    • Femke A.H. van Hout,
    • Michiel Vermeulen
    Open Access
    RNA–protein interactions play an important role in numerous cellular processes in health and disease. In recent years, the global RNA-bound proteome has been extensively studied, uncovering many previously unknown RNA-binding proteins. However, little is known about which particular proteins bind to which specific RNA transcript. In this review, we provide an overview of methods to identify RNA–protein interactions, with a particular focus on strategies that provide insights into the interactome of specific RNA transcripts.
  • Engineering Metabolism in Nicotiana Species: A Promising Future

    • Francisco Javier Molina-Hidalgo,
    • Marta Vazquez-Vilar,
    • Lucio D'Andrea,
    • Olivia C. Demurtas,
    • Paul Fraser,
    • Giovanni Giuliano,
    • Ralph Bock,
    • Diego Orzáez,
    • Alain Goossens
    Molecular farming intends to use crop plants as biofactories for high value-added compounds following application of a wide range of biotechnological tools. In particular, the conversion of nonfood crops into efficient biofactories is expected to be a strong asset in the development of a sustainable bioeconomy. The ‘nonfood’ status combined with the high metabolic versatility and the capacity of high-yield cultivation highlight the plant genus Nicotiana as one of the most appropriate ‘chassis’ for molecular farming.
  • Using Co-Culture to Functionalize Clostridium Fermentation

    • Yonghao Cui,
    • Kun-Lin Yang,
    • Kang Zhou
    Clostridium fermentations have been developed for producing butanol and other value-added chemicals, but their development is constrained by some limitations, such as relatively high substrate cost and the need to maintain an anaerobic condition. Recently, co-culture is emerging as a popular way to address these limitations by introducing a partner strain with Clostridium. Generally speaking, the co-culture strategy enables the use of a cheaper substrate, maintains the growth of Clostridium without any anaerobic treatment, improves product yields, and/or widens the product spectrum.
  • Designing Artificial Cells towards a New Generation of Biosensors

    • Margrethe A. Boyd,
    • Neha P. Kamat
    The combination of biological and synthetic materials has great potential to generate new types of biosensors. Toward this goal, recent advances in artificial cell development have demonstrated the capacity to detect a variety of analytes and environmental changes by encapsulating genetically encoded sensors within bilayer membranes, expanding the contexts within which biologically based sensing can operate. This chassis not only acts as a container for cell-free sensors, but can also play an active role in artificial cell sensing by serving as an additional gate mediating the transfer of environmental information.
  • Intrinsically Conductive Microbial Nanowires for ‘Green’ Electronics with Novel Functions

    • Derek R. Lovley,
    • Jun Yao
    Intrinsically conductive protein nanowires, microbially produced from inexpensive, renewable feedstocks, are a sustainable alternative to traditional nanowire electronic materials, which require high energy inputs and hazardous conditions/chemicals for fabrication and can be highly toxic. Pilin-based nanowires can be tailored for specific functions via the design of synthetic pilin genes to tune wire conductivity or introduce novel functionalities. Other microbially produced nanowire options for electronics may include cytochrome wires, curli fibers, and the conductive fibers of cable bacteria.
  • Grand Challenges for Industrializing Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs)

    • Dan Tan,
    • Ying Wang,
    • Yi Tong,
    • Guo-Qiang Chen
    Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are a diverse family of sustainable bioplastics synthesized by various bacteria, but their high production cost and unstable material properties make them challenging to use in commercial applications. Current industrial biotechnology (CIB) employs conventional microbial chassis, leading to high production costs. However, next-generation industrial biotechnology (NGIB) approaches, based on fast-growing and contamination-resistant extremophilic Halomonas spp., allow stable continuous processing and thus economical production of PHAs with stable properties.
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