Now Accepting Submissions for Three Special Issues

"Plant BioDesign Hub" -- "Designing Proteins With New Folds and Function" -- "Engineering Microbiomes for Biodesign Applications" -- Submit to a special issue today!

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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

Accepting submissions for three special issues:

Plant BioDesign Hub (deadlines: Aug 31, 2021; Mar 31, 2022; Mar 31, 2023)

• Designing Proteins With New Folds and Function (deadline: Dec 31, 2021)

• Engineering Microbiomes for Biodesign Applications (deadline: Mar 31, 2022)

Latest Articles

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Review Article

Tissue Regeneration with Hydrogel Encapsulation: A Review of Developments in Plants and Animals

Hydrogel encapsulation has been widely utilized in the study of fundamental cellular mechanisms and has been shown to provide a better representation of the complex in vivo microenvironment in natural biological conditions of mammalian cells. In this review, we provide a background into the adoption of hydrogel encapsulation methods in the study of mammalian cells, highlight some key findings that may aid with the adoption of similar methods for the study of plant cells, including the potential challenges and considerations, and discuss key findings of studies that have utilized these methods in plant sciences.

Review Article

Biological Parts for Plant Biodesign to Enhance Land-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal

A grand challenge facing society is climate change caused mainly by rising CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere. Terrestrial plants are linchpins in global carbon cycling, with a unique capability of capturing CO2 via photosynthesis and translocating captured carbon to stems, roots, and soils for long-term storage. However, many researchers postulate that existing land plants cannot meet the ambitious requirement for CO2 removal to mitigate climate change in the future due to low photosynthetic efficiency, limited carbon allocation for long-term storage, and low suitability for the bioeconomy. To address these limitations, there is an urgent need for genetic improvement of existing plants or construction of novel plant systems through biosystems design (or biodesign). Here, we summarize validated biological parts (e.g., protein-encoding genes and noncoding RNAs) for biological engineering of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) traits in terrestrial plants to accelerate land-based decarbonization in bioenergy plantations and agricultural settings and promote a vibrant bioeconomy. Specifically, we first summarize the framework of plant-based CDR (e.g., CO2 capture, translocation, storage, and conversion to value-added products). Then, we highlight some representative biological parts, with experimental evidence, in this framework. Finally, we discuss challenges and strategies for the identification and curation of biological parts for CDR engineering in plants.

Research Article

Production of Volatile Moth Sex Pheromones in Transgenic Nicotiana benthamiana Plants

Plant-based bioproduction of insect sex pheromones has been proposed as an innovative strategy to increase the sustainability of pest control in agriculture. Here, we describe the engineering of transgenic plants producing (Z)-11-hexadecenol (Z11-16OH) and (Z)-11-hexadecenyl acetate (Z11-16OAc), two main volatile components in many Lepidoptera sex pheromone blends. We assembled multigene DNA constructs encoding the pheromone biosynthetic pathway and stably transformed them into Nicotiana benthamiana plants. The constructs contained the Amyelois transitella AtrΔ11 desaturase gene, the Helicoverpa armigera fatty acyl reductase HarFAR gene, and the Euonymus alatus diacylglycerol acetyltransferase EaDAct gene in different configurations. All the pheromone-producing plants showed dwarf phenotypes, the severity of which correlated with pheromone levels. All but one of the recovered lines produced high levels of Z11-16OH, but very low levels of Z11-16OAc, probably as a result of recurrent truncations at the level of the EaDAct gene. Only one plant line (SxPv1.2) was recovered that harboured an intact pheromone pathway and which produced moderate levels of Z11-16OAc (11.8 μg g-1 FW) and high levels of Z11-16OH (111.4 μg g-1). Z11-16OAc production was accompanied in SxPv1.2 by a partial recovery of the dwarf phenotype. SxPv1.2 was used to estimate the rates of volatile pheromone release, which resulted in 8.48 ng g-1 FW per day for Z11-16OH and 9.44 ng g-1 FW per day for Z11-16OAc. Our results suggest that pheromone release acts as a limiting factor in pheromone biodispenser strategies and establish a roadmap for biotechnological improvements.

Research Article

Engineering of a Promoter Repressed by a Light-Regulated Transcription Factor in Escherichia coli

Light-regulated gene expression systems allow controlling gene expression in space and time with high accuracy. Contrary to previous synthetic light sensors that incorporate two-component systems which require localization at the plasma membrane, soluble one-component repression systems provide several advantageous characteristics. Firstly, they are soluble and able to diffuse across the cytoplasm. Secondly, they are smaller and of lower complexity, enabling less taxing expression and optimization of fewer parts. Thirdly, repression through steric hindrance is a widespread regulation mechanism that does not require specific interaction with host factors, potentially enabling implementation in different organisms. Herein, we present the design of the synthetic promoter PEL that in combination with the light-regulated dimer EL222 constitutes a one-component repression system. Inspired by previously engineered synthetic promoters and the Escherichia coli lacZYA promoter, we designed PEL with two EL222 operators positioned to hinder RNA polymerase binding when EL222 is bound. PEL is repressed by EL222 under conditions of white light with a light-regulated repression ratio of five. Further, alternating conditions of darkness and light in cycles as short as one hour showed that repression is reversible. The design of the PEL-EL222 system herein presented could aid the design and implementation of analogous one-component optogenetic repression systems. Finally, we compare the PEL-EL222 system with similar systems and suggest general improvements that could optimize and extend the functionality of EL222-based as well as other one-component repression systems.

Research Article

In-Depth Computational Analysis of Natural and Artificial Carbon Fixation Pathways

In the recent years, engineering new-to-nature CO2- and C1-fixing metabolic pathways made a leap forward. New, artificial pathways promise higher yields and activity than natural ones like the Calvin-Benson-Bassham (CBB) cycle. The question remains how to best predict their in vivo performance and what actually makes one pathway “better” than another. In this context, we explore aerobic carbon fixation pathways by a computational approach and compare them based on their specific activity and yield on methanol, formate, and CO2/H2 considering the kinetics and thermodynamics of the reactions. Besides pathways found in nature or implemented in the laboratory, this included two completely new cycles with favorable features: the reductive citramalyl-CoA cycle and the 2-hydroxyglutarate-reverse tricarboxylic acid cycle. A comprehensive kinetic data set was collected for all enzymes of all pathways, and missing kinetic data were sampled with the Parameter Balancing algorithm. Kinetic and thermodynamic data were fed to the Enzyme Cost Minimization algorithm to check for respective inconsistencies and calculate pathway-specific activities. The specific activities of the reductive glycine pathway, the CETCH cycle, and the new reductive citramalyl-CoA cycle were predicted to match the best natural cycles with superior product-substrate yield. However, the CBB cycle performed better in terms of activity compared to the alternative pathways than previously thought. We make an argument that stoichiometric yield is likely not the most important design criterion of the CBB cycle. Still, alternative carbon fixation pathways were paretooptimal for specific activity and product-substrate yield in simulations with C1 substrates and CO2/H2 and therefore hold great potential for future applications in Industrial Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology.

Research Article

Durable CRISPR-Based Epigenetic Silencing

Development of CRISPR-based epigenome editing tools is important for the study and engineering of biological behavior. Here, we describe the design of a reporter system for quantifying the ability of CRISPR epigenome editors to produce a stable gene repression. We characterize the dynamics of durable gene silencing and reactivation, as well as the induced epigenetic changes of this system. We report the creation of single-protein CRISPR constructs bearing combinations of three epigenetic editing domains, termed KAL, that can stably repress the gene expression. This system should allow for the development of novel epigenome editing tools which will be useful in a wide array of biological research and engineering applications.