Synthetic alienation of microbial organisms: why and how?


Berlin Institute of Technology/TU Berlin, Department of Chemistry, Biocatalysis Group Müller-Breslau-Straße 10, D-10623 Berlin, Germany


   The main goal of Synthetic Biology (SB) is the creation of new biodiversity which is useful in biotechnology within the framework of natural chemistries, while Xenobiology (XB) uses the non-natural building blocks in living cells to accomplish artificial biodiversity. Protein and proteome engineering, which overcomes limitation of the canonical amino acid repertoire of 20 (+2) prescribed by the genetic code by using non-canonic amino acids (ncAAs), is one of the main focuses of XB research. Ideally, estranging the genetic code via systematic introduction of ncAAs should enable the development of bio-containment mechanisms in synthetic cells endowed with a ``genetic firewall'' i.e. orthogonality which prevents genetic information transfer to natural systems. Despite rapid progress over the past two decades, it is not yet possible to completely alienate an organism that would use and maintain different genetic code associations permanently. In order to engineer robust bio-contained life forms, the chemical logic behind the amino acid repertoire establishment should be considered. Starting from recent proposal Hartman and Smith of the genetic code establishment in the RNA world, here we mapped possible biotechnological invasion points for engineering of bio-contained synthetic cells equipped with non-canonical functionalities.



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