Hopes for building artificial cells capable of growing and evolving autonomously – sciencedaily


Professor Norikazu Ichihashi and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo have successfully induced gene expression from DNA, characteristic of all life, and evolution through continuous extracellular replication using for first time cell-free materials alone, such as nucleic acids and proteins.

The ability to proliferate and evolve is one of the defining characteristics of living organisms. However, no artificial material with these characteristics has been created. In order to develop an artificial molecular system capable of multiplying and evolving, the information (genes) encoded in DNA must be translated into RNA, proteins must be expressed and the DNA replication cycle with these proteins must continue for a long time in the system. To date, it has not been possible to create a reaction system in which the genes necessary for DNA replication are expressed while these genes simultaneously perform their function.

The group succeeded in translating the genes into proteins and replicating the original circular DNA with the translated proteins using circular DNA carrying two genes required for DNA replication (artificial genomic DNA) and a transcription system -translation without cell.(1). In addition, they also succeeded in improving DNA to evolve into DNA with 10 times higher replication efficiency by continuing this cycle of DNA replication for about 60 days.

By adding the genes needed for transcription and translation to the artificial genomic DNA developed by the group, it might be possible to develop artificial cells capable of growing autonomously simply by feeding them low molecular weight compounds such as amino acids and nucleotides, in the future. If such artificial cells can be created, we can expect that useful substances currently produced using living organisms (such as substances for drug development and food production) will become more stable and easier. to control.

This research was led by Professor Norikazu Ichihashi, research director of the project “Development of a replication-transcription-translation system of the self-regenerating artificial genome” in the research area “Large-scale genome synthesis and cell programming »As part of CREST Fundamental Research Programs (Team Type). In this area of ​​research, JST aims to elucidate the basic principles in relation to the structure and function of genomes for the creation of a technological platform for the use of cells.

* (1) A cell-free transcription and translation system

A reaction solution containing all the factors necessary for the transcription of RNA from genes encoded in DNA and for translation into proteins outside the cell. The present study used the reconstituted PURE system (Shimizu et al. Nat Biotechnol. 2001), composed entirely of purified and known proteins and RNA. Therefore, the system is free of unknown elements. This system was developed by Yoshihiro Shimizu (RIKEN Center for Frontier Biosciences) and his colleagues at the Takuya Ueda laboratory at the University of Tokyo.

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