Meta-Analysis of the Expansion in the Field of Structural Biology of ABC Transporters

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Journal profile

The open access journal BioDesign Research, published in association with NAU, publishes novel research in the interdisciplinary field of biosystems design.

Editorial board

The editorial board, led by Xiaohan Yang (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and Alfonso Jaramillo (University of Warwick), is comprised of experts who have made significant and well recognized contributions to the field of biodesign research.

Special issues

The Submission deadline is December 31st for the following special issues:

Plant BioDesign Hub

• Designing Proteins With New Folds and Function

• Engineering Microbiomes for Biodesign Applications

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Hardware, Software, and Wetware Codesign Environment for Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology is the process of forward engineering living systems. These systems can be used to produce biobased materials, agriculture, medicine, and energy. One approach to designing these systems is to employ techniques from the design of embedded electronics. These techniques include abstraction, standards, modularity, automated design, and formal semantic models of computation. Together, these elements form the foundation of “biodesign automation,” where software, robotics, and microfluidic devices combine to create exciting biological systems of the future. This paper describes a “hardware, software, wetware” codesign vision where software tools can be made to act as “genetic compilers” that transform high-level specifications into engineered “genetic circuits” (wetware). This is followed by a process where automation equipment, well-defined experimental workflows, and microfluidic devices are explicitly designed to house, execute, and test these circuits (hardware). These systems can be used as either massively parallel experimental platforms or distributed bioremediation and biosensing devices. Next, scheduling and control algorithms (software) manage these systems’ actual execution and data analysis tasks. A distinguishing feature of this approach is how all three of these aspects (hardware, software, and wetware) may be derived from the same basic specification in parallel and generated to fulfill specific cost, performance, and structural requirements.

Review Article

Cell-Free PURE System: Evolution and Achievements

The cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) system, as a technical core of synthetic biology, can simulate the transcription and translation process in an in vitro open environment without a complete living cell. It has been widely used in basic and applied research fields because of its advanced engineering features in flexibility and controllability. Compared to a typical crude extract-based CFPS system, due to defined and customizable components and lacking protein-degrading enzymes, the protein synthesis using recombinant elements (PURE) system draws great attention. This review first discusses the elemental composition of the PURE system. Then, the design and preparation of functional proteins for the PURE system, especially the critical ribosome, were examined. Furthermore, we trace the evolving development of the PURE system in versatile areas, including prototyping, synthesis of unnatural proteins, peptides and complex proteins, and biosensors. Finally, as a state-of-the-art engineering strategy, this review analyzes the opportunities and challenges faced by the PURE system in future scientific research and diverse applications.

Research Article

Superior Conjugative Plasmids Delivered by Bacteria to Diverse Fungi

Fungi are nature’s recyclers, allowing for ecological nutrient cycling and, in turn, the continuation of life on Earth. Some fungi inhabit the human microbiome where they can provide health benefits, while others are opportunistic pathogens that can cause disease. Yeasts, members of the fungal kingdom, have been domesticated by humans for the production of beer, bread, and, recently, medicine and chemicals. Still, the great untapped potential exists within the diverse fungal kingdom. However, many yeasts are intractable, preventing their use in biotechnology or in the development of novel treatments for pathogenic fungi. Therefore, as a first step for the domestication of new fungi, an efficient DNA delivery method needs to be developed. Here, we report the creation of superior conjugative plasmids and demonstrate their transfer via conjugation from bacteria to 7 diverse yeast species including the emerging pathogen Candida auris. To create our superior plasmids, derivatives of the 57 kb conjugative plasmid pTA-Mob 2.0 were built using designed gene deletions and insertions, as well as some unintentional mutations. Specifically, a cluster mutation in the promoter of the conjugative gene traJ had the most significant effect on improving conjugation to yeasts. In addition, we created Golden Gate assembly-compatible plasmid derivatives that allow for the generation of custom plasmids to enable the rapid insertion of designer genetic cassettes. Finally, we demonstrated that designer conjugative plasmids harboring engineered restriction endonucleases can be used as a novel antifungal agent, with important applications for the development of next-generation antifungal therapeutics.

Review Article

Reflection on the Challenges, Accomplishments, and New Frontiers of Gene Drives

Ongoing pest and disease outbreaks pose a serious threat to human, crop, and animal lives, emphasizing the need for constant genetic discoveries that could serve as mitigation strategies. Gene drives are genetic engineering approaches discovered decades ago that may allow quick, super-Mendelian dissemination of genetic modifications in wild populations, offering hopes for medicine, agriculture, and ecology in combating diseases. Following its first discovery, several naturally occurring selfish genetic elements were identified and several gene drive mechanisms that could attain relatively high threshold population replacement have been proposed. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the recent advances in gene drive research with a particular emphasis on CRISPR-Cas gene drives, the technology that has revolutionized the process of genome engineering. Herein, we discuss the benefits and caveats of this technology and place it within the context of natural gene drives discovered to date and various synthetic drives engineered. Later, we elaborate on the strategies for designing synthetic drive systems to address resistance issues and prevent them from altering the entire wild populations. Lastly, we highlight the major applications of synthetic CRISPR-based gene drives in different living organisms, including plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Research Article

Propagation of Recombinant Genes through Complex Microbiomes with Synthetic Mini-RP4 Plasmid Vectors

The promiscuous conjugation machinery of the Gram-negative plasmid RP4 has been reassembled in a minimized, highly transmissible vector for propagating genetically encoded traits through diverse types of naturally occurring microbial communities. To this end, the whole of the RP4-encoded transfer determinants (tra, mob genes, and origin of transfer oriT) was excised from their natural context, minimized, and recreated in the form of a streamlined DNA segment borne by an autoselective replicon. The resulting constructs (the pMATING series) could be self-transferred through a variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic recipients employing such a rationally designed conjugal delivery device. Insertion of GFP reporter into pMATING exposed the value of this genetic tool for delivering heterologous genes to both specific mating partners and complex consortia (e.g., plant/soil rhizosphere). The results accredited the effective and functional transfer of the recombinant plasmids to a diversity of hosts. Yet the inspection of factors that limit interspecies DNA transfer in such scenarios uncovered type VI secretion systems as one of the factual barriers that check otherwise high conjugal frequencies of tested RP4 derivatives. We argue that the hereby presented programming of hyperpromiscuous gene transfer can become a phenomenal asset for the propagation of beneficial traits through various scales of the environmental microbiome.

Research Article

In Vitro Nanobody Library Construction by Using Gene Designated-Region Pan-Editing Technology

Camelid single-domain antibody fragments (nanobodies) are an emerging force in therapeutic biopharmaceuticals and clinical diagnostic reagents in recent years. Nearly all nanobodies available to date have been obtained by animal immunization, a bottleneck restricting the large-scale application of nanobodies. In this study, we developed three kinds of gene designated-region pan-editing (GDP) technologies to introduce multiple mutations in complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) of nanobodies in vitro. Including the integration of G-quadruplex fragments in CDRs, which induces the spontaneous multiple mutations in CDRs; however, these mutant sequences are highly similar, resulting in a lack of sequences diversity in the CDRs. We also used CDR-targeting traditional gRNA-guided base-editors, which effectively diversify the CDRs. And most importantly, we developed the self-assembling gRNAs, which are generated by reprogrammed tracrRNA hijacking of endogenous mRNAs as crRNAs. Using base-editors guided by self-assembling gRNAs, we can realize the iteratively diversify the CDRs. And we believe the last GDP technology is highly promising in immunization-free nanobody library construction, and the full development of this novel nanobody discovery platform can realize the synthetic evolution of nanobodies in vitro.