Membrane-Related Science

Huan Fang, Dong Li, Jie Kang, Pingtao Jiang, Jibin Sun & Dawei Zhang

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Thomas Eng, Philipp Demling, Robin A. Herbert, Yan Chen, Veronica Benites, Joel Martin, Anna Lipzen, Edward E. K. Baidoo, Lars M. Blank, Christopher J. Petzold, Aindrila Mukhopadhyay (read more…)

Angad P. MehtaLubica SupekovaJian-Hua ChenKersi PestonjamaspPaul WebsterYeonjin KoScott C. HendersonGerry McDermottFrantisek Supek, and Peter G. Schultz (read more…)

Itay Budin, Tristan de Rond, Yan Chen, Leanne Jade G. Chan, Christopher J. Petzold, Jay D. Keasling

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Emmanuel Nji, Yurie Chatzikyriakidou, Michael Landreh & David Drew

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Royal Society Publishing has recently published a special issue of Interface Focus entitled “The artificial cell: biology-inspired compartmentalization of chemical function”, organised by Paul A Beales, Barbara Ciani and Stephen Mann.

This issue is based on a Royal Society Theo Murphy meeting held on the 26–27 February 2018. The articles reveal the rich diversity of research currently being undertaken in the field of artificial cell design and construction, and highlight the challenges that lie ahead.

The articles are FREE TO ACCESS here.

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Escherichia coli has been engineered toward an archaebacterium with an unprecedented high level of archaeal ether phospholipids. The obtained cells stably maintain a mixed heterochiral membrane. This finding challenges theories that assume that intrinsic instability of mixed membranes led to the “lipid divide” and the subsequent differentiation of bacteria and archaea. Furthermore, this study paves the way for future membrane engineering of industrial production organisms with improved robustness. (read more…)

Protein translocation is an essential feature of cellular organisms. Bacteria, like all single-cell organisms, interact with their environment by translocation of proteins across their cell membranes via dedicated secretion pathways. Proteins destined for secretion are directed toward the secretion pathways by the presence of specific signal peptides. This study demonstrates that under conditions of both osmotic stress and translation stress, E. coli cells undergo an excretion phenomenon whereby signal peptide-less proteins are translocated across both the inner and outer cell membranes into the extracellular environment. Confirming the presence of alternative translocation/excretion pathways and understanding their function and regulation are thus important for fundamental microbiology and biotechnology. (read more…)

Yunchang Xie, Junying Ma, Xiangjing Qin, Qinglian Li and Jianhua Ju

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Manuel Sommer, Hao Xie and Hartmut Michel


Studies on membrane proteins are often hampered by insufficient yields of the protein of interest. Several prokaryotic hosts have been tested for their applicability as production platform but still Escherichia coli by far is the one most commonly used. Nevertheless, it has been demonstrated that, in some cases, hosts other than E. coli are more appropriate for certain target proteins. (read more…)

Ali R. Awan, Benjamin A. Blount, David J. Bell, William M. Shaw, Jack C.H. Ho, Robert M. McKiernan & Tom Ellis

Fungi are a valuable source of enzymatic diversity and therapeutic natural products including antibiotics. Here we engineer the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce and secrete the antibiotic penicillin, a beta-lactam nonribosomal peptide, by taking genes from a filamentous fungus and directing their efficient expression and subcellular localization. Using synthetic biology tools combined with long-read DNA sequencing, we optimize productivity by 50-fold to produce bioactive yields that allow spent S. cerevisiae growth media to have antibacterial action against Streptococcus bacteria. This work demonstrates that S. cerevisiae can be engineered to perform the complex biosynthesis of multicellular fungi, opening up the possibility of using yeast to accelerate rational engineering of nonribosomal peptide antibiotics.

Read the full article in Nature Communications

Baixue Lin and Yong Tao

Whole-cell biocatalysts provide unique advantages and have been widely used for the efficient biosynthesis of value-added fine and bulk chemicals, as well as pharmaceutically active ingredients. What is more, advances in synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, together with the rapid development of molecular genetic tools, have brought about a renaissance of whole-cell biocatalysis. These rapid advancements mean that whole-cell biocatalysts can increasingly be rationally designed. Genes of heterologous enzymes or synthetic pathways are increasingly being introduced into microbial hosts, and depending on the complexity of the synthetic pathway or the target products, they can enable the production of value-added chemicals from cheap feedstock. Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology efforts aimed at optimizing the existing microbial cell factories concentrate on improving heterologous pathway flux, precursor supply, and cofactor balance, as well as other aspects of cellular metabolism, to enhance the efficiency of biocatalysts. In the present review, we take a critical look at recent developments in whole-cell biocatalysis, with an emphasis on strategies applied to designing and optimizing the organisms that are increasingly modified for efficient production of chemicals.

Read the full article in Microbial Cell Factories

Francesca Zerbini, Ilaria Zanella, Davide Fraccascia, Enrico König, Carmela Irene, Luca F. Frattini, Michele Tomasi, Laura Fantappiè, Luisa Ganfini, Elena Caproni, Matteo Parri, Alberto Grandi and Guido Grandi

The exploitation of the CRISPR/Cas9 machinery coupled to lambda (λ) recombinase-mediated homologous recombination (recombineering) is becoming the method of choice for genome editing in E. coli. First proposed by Jiang and co-workers, the strategy has been subsequently fine-tuned by several authors who demonstrated, by using few selected loci, that the efficiency of mutagenesis (number of mutant colonies over total number of colonies analyzed) can be extremely high (up to 100%). However, from published data it is difficult to appreciate the robustness of the technology, defined as the number of successfully mutated loci over the total number of targeted loci. This information is particularly relevant in high-throughput genome editing, where repetition of experiments to rescue missing mutants would be impractical. This work describes a “brute force” validation activity, which culminated in the definition of a robust, simple and rapid protocol for single or multiple gene deletions.

Read the full article Microbial Cell Factories

Ningzi Guan, Jianghua Li, Hyun-dong Shin, Guocheng Du, Jian Chen, Long Liu

Environmental stresses are usually active during the process of microbial fermentation and have significant influence on microbial physiology. Microorganisms have developed a series of strategies to resist environmental stresses. For instance, they maintain the integrity and fluidity of cell membranes by modulating their structure and composition, and the permeability and activities of transporters are adjusted to control nutrient transport and ion exchange. Certain transcription factors are activated to enhance gene expression, and specific signal transduction pathways are induced to adapt to environmental changes. Besides, microbial cells also have well-established repair mechanisms that protect their macromolecules against damages inflicted by environmental stresses. Oxidative, hyperosmotic, thermal, acid, and organic solvent stresses are significant in microbial fermentation. In this review, we summarize the modus operandi by which these stresses act on cellular components, as well as the corresponding resistance mechanisms developed by microorganisms. Then, we discuss the applications of these stress resistance mechanisms on the production of industrially important chemicals. Finally, we prospect the application of systems biology and synthetic biology in the identification of resistant mechanisms and improvement of metabolic robustness of microorganisms in environmental stresses.

Read the full article in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

Wei-Chih Chin, Kuo-Hsing Lin, Chun-Chi Liu, Kenji Tsuge and Chieh-Chen Huang


n-Butanol has favorable characteristics for use as either an alternative fuel or platform chemical. Bio-based n-butanol production using microbes is an emerging technology that requires further development. Although bio-industrial microbes such as Escherichia coli have been engineered to produce n-butanol, reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated toxicity may limit productivity. Previously, we show that outer-membrane-targeted tilapia metallothionein (OmpC-TMT) is more effective as an ROS scavenger than human and mouse metallothioneins to reduce oxidative stress in the host cell. (read more…)

Huansheng Cao, Du Wei, Yuedong Yang, Yu Shang, Gaoyang Li, Yaoqi Zhou, Qin Ma & Ying Xu

Understanding ethanol-induced stresses and responses in biofuel-producing bacteria at systems level has significant implications in engineering more efficient biofuel producers. We present a computational study of transcriptomic and genomic data of both ethanol-stressed and ethanol-adapted E. coli cells with computationally predicated ethanol-binding proteins and experimentally identified ethanol tolerance genes. Our analysis suggests: (1) ethanol damages cell wall and membrane integrity, causing increased stresses, particularly reactive oxygen species, which damages DNA and reduces the O2 level; (2) decreased cross-membrane proton gradient from membrane damage, coupled with hypoxia, leads to reduced ATP production by aerobic respiration, driving cells to rely more on fatty acid oxidation, anaerobic respiration and fermentation for ATP production; (3) the reduced ATP generation results in substantially decreased synthesis of macromolecules; (4) ethanol can directly bind 213 proteins including transcription factors, altering their functions; (5) all these changes together induce multiple stress responses, reduced biosynthesis, cell viability and growth; and (6) ethanol-adapted E. coli cells restore the majority of these reduced activities through selection of specific genomic mutations and alteration of stress responses, ultimately restoring normal ATP production, macromolecule biosynthesis, and growth. These new insights into the energy and mass balance will inform design of more ethanol-tolerant strains.

Read the full article in Scientific Reports

Dongdong Zhao, Shenli Yuan, Bin Xiong, Hongnian Sun, Lijun Ye, Jing Li, Xueli Zhang and Changhao Bi

Microbial genome editing is a powerful tool to modify chromosome in way of deletion, insertion or replacement, which is one of the most important techniques in metabolic engineering research. The emergence of CRISPR/Cas9 technique inspires various genomic editing methods. (read more…)

Yizhao Chang, Tianyuan Su, Qingsheng Qi and Quanfeng Liang

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats interference (CRISPRi) is a recently developed powerful tool for gene regulation. In Escherichia coli, the type I CRISPR system expressed endogenously shall be easy for internal regulation without causing metabolic burden in compared with the widely used type II system, which expressed dCas9 as an additional plasmid.

Read the full article in Microbial Cell Factories

Mathias Klein, Zia-ul Islama, Peter Boldsen Knudsen, Martina Carrillo, Steve Swinnen, Mhairi Workman, Elke Nevoigt

Glycerol is an abundant by-product during biodiesel production and additionally has several assets compared to sugars when used as a carbon source for growing microorganisms in the context of biotechnological applications. However, most strains of the platform production organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae grow poorly in synthetic glycerol medium. It has been hypothesized that the uptake of glycerol could be a major bottleneck for the utilization of glycerol in S. cerevisiae. This species exclusively relies on an active transport system for glycerol uptake. This work demonstrates that the expression of predicted glycerol facilitators (Fps1 homologues) from superior glycerol-utilizing yeast species such as Pachysolen tannophilus, Komagatella pastoris, Yarrowia lipolytica and Cyberlindnera jadinii significantly improves the growth performance on glycerol of the previously selected glycerol-consuming S. cerevisiae wild-type strain (CBS 6412-13 A). The maximum specific growth rate increased from 0.13 up to 0.18 h−1and a biomass yield coefficient of 0.56 gDW/gglycerol was observed. These results pave the way for exploiting the assets of glycerol in the production of fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals based on baker’s yeast.

Read the full article in Metabolic Engineering Communications