Researchers at Goethe University create artificial cell organelles for biotechnology

November 12, 2020

Biotechnologists have been attempting to "reprogram" natural cell organelles for other processes for some time - with mixed results, since the "laboratory equipment" is specialised on the function of organelles. Dr Joanna Tripp, early career researcher at the Institute for Molecular Biosciences has now developed a new method to produce artificial organelles in living yeast cells (ACS Synthetic Biology:https://doi.org/10.1021/acssynbio.0c00241).

To this end, she used the ramified system of tubes and bubbles in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that surrounds the nucleus. Cells continually tie off bubbles, or vesicles, from this membrane system in order to transport substances to the cell membrane. In plants, these vesicles may also be used for the storage of proteins in seeds. These storage proteins are equipped with an "address label" - the Zera sequence - which guides them to the ER and which ensures that storage proteins are "packaged" there in the vesicle. Joanna Tripp has now used the "address label" Zera to produce targeted vesicles in yeast cells and introduce several enzymes of a biochemical metabolic pathway.

This represents a milestone from a biotechnical perspective. Yeast cells, the "pets" of synthetic biology not only produce numerous useful natural substances, but can also be genetically changed to produce industrially interesting molecules on a grand scale, such as biofuels or anti-malaria medicine.

In addition to the desired products, however, undesirable by-products or toxic intermediates often occur as well. Furthermore, the product can be lost due to leaks in the cell, or reactions can be too slow. Synthetic cell organelles offer remedies, with only the desired enzymes (with "address labels") encountering each other, so that they work together more effectively without disrupting the rest of the cell, or being disrupted themselves.

"We used the Zera sequence to introduce a three-stage, synthetic metabolic pathway into vesicles," Joanna Tripp explains. "We have thus created a reaction space containing exactly what we want. We were able to demonstrate that the metabolic pathway in the vesicles functions in isolation to the rest of the cell."

The biotechnologist selected an industrially relevant molecule for this process: muconic acid, which is further processed industrially to adipic acid. This is an intermediate for nylon and other synthetic materials. Muconic acid is currently won from raw oil. A future large-scale production using yeast cells would be significantly more environment-friendly and sustainable. Although a portion of the intermediate protocatechuic acid is lost because the vesicle membrane is porous, Joanna Tripp views this as a solvable problem.

Professor Eckhard Boles, Head of the Department of Physiology and Genetics of Lower Eukaryotes observes: "This is a revolutionary new method of synthetic biology. With the novel artificial organelles, we now have the option of generating various processes in the cell anew, or to optimise them." The method is not limited to yeast cells, but can be utilised for eukaryotic cells in general. It can also be applied to other issues, e.g. for reactions that have previously not been able to take place in living cells because they may require enzymes that would disrupt the cell metabolic process.
-end-
Current news about science, teaching, and society can be found on GOETHE-UNI online (http://www.aktuelles.uni-frankfurt.de)

Goethe University is a research-oriented university in the European financial centre Frankfurt am Main. The university was founded in 1914 through private funding, primarily from Jewish sponsors, and has since produced pioneering achievements in the areas of social sciences, sociology and economics, medicine, quantum physics, brain research, and labour law. It gained a unique level of autonomy on 1 January 2008 by returning to its historic roots as a "foundation university". Today, it is one of the three largest universities in Germany. Together with the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of Mainz, it is a partner in the inter-state strategic Rhine-Main University Alliance. Internet: http://www.goethe-universitaet.de

Publisher: The President of Goethe University Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Department, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Tel: -49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531, bernards@em.uni-frankfurt.de

Goethe University Frankfurt

Related Synthetic Biology Articles from Brightsurf:

Deep learning takes on synthetic biology
Machine learning is helping biologists solve hard problems, including designing effective synthetic biology tools.

Machine learning takes on synthetic biology: algorithms can bioengineer cells for you
Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a new tool that adapts machine learning algorithms to the needs of synthetic biology to guide development systematically.

Cell-free synthetic biology comes of age
In a review paper published in Nature Reviews Genetics, Professor Michael Jewett explores how cell-free gene expression stands to help the field of synthetic biology dramatically impact society, from the environment to medicine to education.

Scientists develop electrochemical platform for cell-free synthetic biology
Scientists at the University of Toronto (U of T) and Arizona State University (ASU) have developed the first direct gene circuit to electrode interface by combining cell-free synthetic biology with state-of-the-art nanostructured electrodes.

Gene-OFF switches tool up synthetic biology
Wyss researchers and their colloaborators have developed two types of programmable repressor elements that can switch off the production of an output protein in synthetic biology circuits by up to 300-fold in response to almost any triggering nucleotide sequence.

Tennessee researchers join call for responsible development of synthetic biology
Engineering biology is transforming technology and science. Researchers in the international Genome Project-write, including two authors from the UTIA Center for Agricultural Synthetic Biology, outline the technological advances needed to secure a safe, responsible future in the Oct.

Scientists chart course toward a new world of synthetic biology
A UC Berkeley team with NSF funding has compiled a roadmap for the future of synthetic or engineering biology, based on the input of 80 leaders in the field from more than 30 institutions.

DFG presents position paper on synthetic biology
Clear distinction between synthetic biology and underlying methods required / No new potential risks associated with current research work

Commandeering microbes pave way for synthetic biology in military environments
A team of scientists from the US Army Research Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed and demonstrated a pioneering synthetic biology tool to deliver DNA programming into a broad range of bacteria.

BioBits: Teaching synthetic biology to K-12 students
As biologists have probed deeper into the genetic underpinnings of life, K-12 schools have struggled to provide a curriculum that reflects those advances.

Read More: Synthetic Biology News and Synthetic Biology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.