A grand challenge in the field of synthetic biology is the need for technologies that enable the construction of novel and complex functions in biological systems. When these functions involve the expression and coordination of multiple genes, building them becomes increasingly difficult. Nature has however evolved mechanisms to deal with such complexity.
The EPSRC/NSF-funded Syntegron project will develop a synthetic system that harnesses the power of these natural mechanisms to enable synthetic biologists to generate, diversify, and refine complex multigenic functions. The core of this technology will be based on a bacterial innovation called integrons, which are natural cloning and expression systems that assemble multiple open reading frames, in the form of gene cassettes, by using site-specific recombination and conversion to functional genes by expression from an internal promoter.
This project will generate a robust technology enabling the engineering of biological systems, including both microbes and plants, for myriad useful purposes. Notable examples include the production of renewable bio-fuels and biomaterials, the synthesis of small biomolecules for applications in specialty chemicals, bioremediation, and improvement of crops for agriculture. This project will also provide a scientific tool for probing genome organization and dynamics in processes such as the emergence of microbial resistance to small-molecules and metabolic pathway evolution.more information...