Biological Engineering


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 459 Views Mar 5, 2024

Diatoms serve as a source for a variety of compounds with particularbiotechnological interest. Therefore, redirecting the flow to a specific pathwayrequires the elucidation of the gene’s specific function. The mostcommonly used method in diatoms is biolistic transformation, which is a veryexpensive and time-consuming method. The use of episomes that are maintained asclosed circles at a copy number equivalent to native chromosomes has become auseful genetic system for protein expression that avoids multiple insertions,position-specific effects on expression, and potential knockout of non-targetedgenes. These episomes can be introduced from bacteria into diatoms viaconjugation. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for gene expression thatincludes 1) the gateway cloning strategy and 2) the conjugation protocol for themobilization of plasmids from bacteria to diatoms.

0 Q&A 543 Views Nov 5, 2023

While site-specific translational encoding of phosphoserine (pSer) into proteins in Escherichia coli via genetic code expansion (GCE) technologies has transformed our ability to study phospho-protein structure and function, recombinant phospho-proteins can be dephosphorylated during expression/purification, and their exposure to cellular-like environments such as cell lysates results in rapid reversion back to the non-phosphorylated form. To help overcome these challenges, we developed an efficient and scalable E. coli GCE expression system enabling site-specific incorporation of a non-hydrolyzable phosphoserine (nhpSer) mimic into proteins of interest. This nhpSer mimic, with the γ-oxygen of phosphoserine replaced by a methylene (CH2) group, is impervious to hydrolysis and recapitulates phosphoserine function even when phosphomimetics aspartate and glutamate do not. Key to this expression system is the co-expression of a Streptomyces biosynthetic pathway that converts the central metabolite phosphoenolpyruvate into non-hydrolyzable phosphoserine (nhpSer) amino acid, which provides a > 40-fold improvement in expression yields compared to media supplementation by increasing bioavailability of nhpSer and enables scalability of expressions. This “PermaPhos” expression system uses the E. coli BL21(DE3) ∆serC strain and three plasmids that express (i) the protein of interest, (ii) the GCE machinery for translational installation of nhpSer at UAG amber stop codons, and (iii) the Streptomyces nhpSer biosynthetic pathway. Successful expression requires efficient transformation of all three plasmids simultaneously into the expression host, and IPTG is used to induce expression of all components. Permanently phosphorylated proteins made in E. coli are particularly useful for discovering phosphorylation-dependent protein–protein interaction networks from cell lysates or transfected cells.

Key features

• Protocol builds on the nhpSer GCE system by Rogerson et al. (2015), but with a > 40-fold improvement in yields enabled by the nhpSer biosynthetic pathway.

• Protein expression uses standard Terrific Broth (TB) media and requires three days to complete.

• C-terminal purification tags on target protein are recommended to avoid co-purification of prematurely truncated protein with full-length nhpSer-containing protein.

• Phos-tag gel electrophoresis provides a convenient method to confirm accurate nhpSer encoding, as it can distinguish between non-phosphorylated, pSer- and nhpSer-containing variants.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 527 Views Jul 20, 2023

The sesquiterpene lactone compound artemisinin is a natural medicinal product of commercial importance. This Artemisia annua–derived secondary metabolite is well known for its antimalarial activity and has been studied in several other biological assays. However, the major shortcoming in its production and commercialization is its low accumulation in the native plant. Moreover, the chemical synthesis of artemisinin is difficult and expensive due to its complex structure. Hence, an alternative and sustainable production system of artemisinin in a heterologous host is required. Previously, heterologous production of artemisinin was achieved by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. However, this requires extensive bioengineering of modified Nicotiana plants. Recently, a technique involving direct in vivo assembly of multiple DNA fragments in the moss, P. patens, has been successfully established. We utilized this technique to engineer artemisinin biosynthetic pathway genes into the moss, and artemisinin was obtained without further modifications with high initial production. Here, we provide protocols for establishing moss culture accumulating artemisinin, including culture preparation, transformation method, and compound detection via HS-SPME, UPLC-MRM-MS, and LC-QTOF-MS. The bioengineering of moss opens up a more sustainable, cost effective, and scalable platform not only in artemisinin production but also other high-value specialized metabolites in the future.

0 Q&A 1011 Views Jul 20, 2023

Regulated cell death plays a key role in immunity, development, and homeostasis, but is also associated with a number of pathologies such as autoinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. However, despite the extensive mechanistic research of different cell death modalities, the direct comparison of different forms of cell death and their consequences on the cellular and tissue level remain poorly characterized. Comparative studies are hindered by the mechanistic and kinetic differences between cell death modalities, as well as the inability to selectively induce different cell death programs in an individual cell within cell populations or tissues. In this method, we present a protocol for rapid and specific optogenetic activation of three major types of programmed cell death: apoptosis, necroptosis, and pyroptosis, using light-induced forced oligomerization of their major effector proteins (caspases or kinases).

0 Q&A 652 Views Jul 5, 2023

Engineered aptamers for new compounds are typically produced by using in vitro selection methods. However, aptamers that are developed in vitro might not function as expected when introduced into complex cellular environments. One approach that addresses this concern is the design of initial RNA pools for selection that contain structural scaffolds from naturally occurring riboswitch aptamers. Here, we provide guidance on design and experimental principles for developing riboswitch-inspired aptamers for new ligands. The in vitro selection protocol (based on Capture-SELEX) is generalizable to diverse RNA scaffold types and amenable to multiplexing of ligand candidates. We discuss strategies to avoid propagation of selfish sequences that can easily dominate the selection. We also detail the identification of aptamer candidates using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics, and subsequent biochemical validation of aptamer candidates. Finally, we describe functional testing of aptamer candidates in bacterial cell culture.

Key features

• Develop riboswitch-inspired aptamers for new ligands using in vitro selection.

• Ligand candidates can be multiplexed to conserve time and resources.

• Test aptamer candidates in bacterial cells by grafting the aptamer back onto its expression platform.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 413 Views Jul 5, 2023

The easyPACId (easy Promoter Activation and Compound Identification) approach is focused on the targeted activation of natural product biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) encoding non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS), polyketide synthases (PKS), NRPS-PKS hybrids, or other BGC classes. It was applied to entomopathogenic bacteria of the genera Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus by exchanging the natural promoter of desired BGCs against the L-arabinose inducible PBAD promoter in ∆hfq mutants of the respective strains. The crude (culture) extracts of the cultivated easyPACId mutants are enriched with the single compound or compound class and can be tested directly against various target organisms without further purification of the produced natural products. Furthermore, isolation and identification of compounds from these mutants is simplified due to the reduced background in the ∆hfq strains. The approach avoids problems often encountered in heterologous expression hosts, chemical synthesis, or tedious extraction of desired compounds from wild-type crude extracts. This protocol describes easyPACId for Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus, but it was also successfully adapted to Pseudomonas entomophila and might be suitable for other proteobacteria that carry hfq.

0 Q&A 714 Views Apr 20, 2023

Plant protoplasts are useful to study both transcriptional regulation and protein subcellular localization in rapid screens. Protoplast transformation can be used in automated platforms for design-build-test cycles of plant promoters, including synthetic promoters. A notable application of protoplasts comes from recent successes in dissecting synthetic promoter activity with poplar mesophyll protoplasts. For this purpose, we constructed plasmids with TurboGFP driven by a synthetic promoter together with TurboRFP constitutively controlled by a 35S promoter, to monitor transformation efficiency, allowing versatile screening of high numbers of cells by monitoring green fluorescent protein expression in transformed protoplasts. Herein, we introduce a protocol for poplar mesophyll protoplast isolation followed by protoplast transformation and image analysis for the selection of valuable synthetic promoters.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 802 Views Nov 5, 2022

Reconstitution of membrane proteins into large unilamellar vesicles is an essential approach for their functional analysis under chemically defined conditions. The orientation of the protein in the liposomal membrane after reconstitution depends on many parameters, and its assessment is important prior to functional measurements. Common approaches for determining the orientation of a membrane-inserted protein are based on limited proteolytic digest, impermeable labeling reagents for specific amino acids, or membrane-impermeable quenchers for fluorescent proteins. Here, we describe a simple site-specific fluorescent assay based on self-labeling enzyme tags to determine the orientation of membrane proteins after reconstitution, exemplified on a reconstituted SNAP-tag plant H+-ATPase. This versatile method should benefit the optimization of reconstitution conditions and the analysis of many types of membrane proteins.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1623 Views Nov 5, 2022

This protocol describes the recombinant expression of proteins in E. coli containing phosphoserine (pSer) installed at positions guided by TAG codons. The E. coli strains that can be used here are engineered with a ∆serB genomic knockout to produce pSer internally at high levels, so no exogenously added pSer is required, and the addition of pSer to the media will not affect expression yields. For “truncation-free” expression and improved yields with high flexibility of construct design, it is preferred to use the Release Factor-1 (RF1) deficient strain B95(DE3) ∆AfabRserB, though use of the standard RF1-containing BL21(DE3) ∆serB is also described. Both of these strains are serine auxotrophs and will not grow in standard minimal media. This protocol uses rich auto-induction media for streamlined and maximal production of homogeneously modified protein, yielding ~100–200 mg of single pSer-containing sfGFP per liter of culture. Using this genetic code expansion (GCE) approach, in which pSer is installed into proteins during translation, allows researchers to produce milligram quantities of specific phospho-proteins without requiring kinases, which can be purified for downstream in vitro studies relating to phosphorylation-dependent signaling systems, protein regulation by phosphorylation, and protein–protein interactions.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1826 Views Oct 20, 2022

Directed evolution is a powerful technique for identifying beneficial mutations in defined DNA sequences with the goal of improving desired phenotypes. Recent methodological advances have made the evolution of short DNA sequences quick and easy. However, the evolution of DNA sequences >5kb in length, notably gene clusters, is still a challenge for most existing methods. Since many important microbial phenotypes are encoded by multigene pathways, they are usually improved via adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE), which while straightforward to implement can suffer from off-target and hitchhiker mutations that can adversely affect the fitness of the evolved strain. We have therefore developed a new directed evolution method (Inducible Directed Evolution, IDE) that combines the specificity and throughput of recent continuous directed evolution methods with the ease of ALE. Here, we present detailed methods for operating Inducible Directed Evolution (IDE), which enables long (up to 85kb) DNA sequences to be mutated in a high throughput manner via a simple series of incubation steps. In IDE, an intracellular mutagenesis plasmid (MP) tunably mutagenizes the pathway of interest, located on the phagemid (PM). MP contains a mutagenic operon (danQ926, dam, seqA, emrR, ugi, and cda1) that can be expressed via the addition of a chemical inducer. Expression of the mutagenic operon during a cell cycle represses DNA repair mechanisms such as proofreading, translesion synthesis, mismatch repair, and base excision and selection, which leads to a higher mutation rate. Induction of the P1 lytic cycle results in packaging of the mutagenized phagemid, and the pathway-bearing phage particles infect naïve cells, generating a mutant library that can be screened or selected for improved variants. Successive rounds of IDE enable optimization of complex phenotypes encoded by large pathways (as of this writing up to 36 kb), without requiring inefficient transformation steps. Additionally, IDE avoids off-target genomic mutations and enables decoupling of mutagenesis and screening steps, establishing it as a powerful tool for optimizing complex phenotypes in E. coli.

Graphical abstract:

Figure 1. Overview of Inducible Directed Evolution (IDE). Pathways of interest are cloned into a P1 phagemid (PM) backbone and transformed into a strain of E. coli containing MP (diversification strain). The mutagenesis plasmid is induced to generate mutations. Phage lysate is produced and used to infect a strain that expresses the phenotype of interest (screening/selection strain). The resulting strain library is screened to identify those with improved properties. Narrowed-down libraries can then go through another IDE cycle by infecting a fresh diversification strain.

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