Integron-inspired multi-gene assembly
Protein engineering of lipases and esterases for enhanced activity at lower temperatures
Plant NAD metabolism and abiotic stress
Phytoremediation and Bioremediation
Soil microbial community structure and biofumigation
One major target in Synthetic Biology is the creation of genetically modified microorganisms, to produce valuable chemical substances economically, in high yield and with low environmental impact, or to carry out beneficial chemical transformations. To create these organisms, it is often necessary to introduce a set of new genes and assemble them in specified positions within the organism's genome. The genetic techniques currently available for this 'assembly' task are still inadequate, and gene assembly is considered to be a serious bottleneck in the work leading to the development of useful microorganisms. The first main aim of our research programme is to establish a sophisticated new methodology for this gene assembly process which will achieve a step- change in the speed and efficiency of creating new microorganism strains. For this purpose we have adapted a remarkable group of bacterial recombinases whose natural task is to carry out this kind of genetic rearrangement but which have hitherto been underused as tools for Synthetic Biology. We have designed rapid, robust and efficient ways of making gene cassettes that can be recombined in to specified positions in genomic DNA. By doing this we can assemble collections of genes to order within a particular microorganism. Furthermore we can choose where to place the genes in the genome and in what order, and replace any individual parts with different versions. This permits much easier optimization of complex genetic systems than is currently possible. Using our new methods we intend to engineer microbial cells to make useful products e.g. next-generation biofuels, chemicals for the plastics industry and to synthesise new antibiotics.
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