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Current Opinion in Biotechnology

David Garenne, Vincent Noireaux
Cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) has become a highly versatile technology to construct, characterize and interrogate genetically programmed biomolecular systems implemented outside living organisms. By recapitulating gene expression in vitro, TXTL offers unparalleled flexibility to take apart, engineer and analyze quantitatively the effects of chemical, physical and genetic contexts on the function of biochemical systems, from simple regulatory elements to millimeter-scale pattern formation. Here, we review the capabilities of the current cell-free platforms for executing DNA programs in vitro...
November 2, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Javier Varela, Cristian Varela
Changes in consumer preferences, government policies and environmental conditions have driven research efforts towards producing alcoholic beverages with reduced alcohol content, namely wine and beer. While the strategies available to accomplish this goal vary for wine and beer, a common approach relies on the use of yeast strains which are less efficient at producing ethanol. Here we discuss current research on the isolation and/or generation of yeast strains able to produce beer or wine with reduced ethanol concentration...
October 31, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Friederike Reeβing, Wiktor Szymanski
Nanomedicines, such as liposomal formulations, play an important role in cancer therapy. To support their development, medical imaging modalities are employed for following the drug delivery. Encapsulation of MRI contrast agents, which change their relaxivity upon co-release with the drug, is a promising strategy for monitoring both the biodistribution and payload release from a nanocarrier. This approach is successfully applied in preclinical settings to image the activation of liposomes responsive to heat, pH changes or sonication...
October 31, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Yao Jiang, Sanam Chekuri, Ronnie H Fang, Liangfang Zhang
Nanoparticulate platforms have contributed significantly to the field of biomedical research, demonstrating advantages over traditional modalities in areas such as drug delivery, detoxification, and vaccination. When it comes to the design of nanoparticles, biomimetic strategies have become increasingly popular as a means of promoting effective interactions with biological systems. A recently developed cell membrane-coated nanoparticle platform can leverage the natural interactions that cells engage in with other cells, the extracellular matrix, and biomolecules in order to reduce undesirable nonspecific interactions, while increasing target-specific interactions...
October 31, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Misato Ohtani, Taku Demura
Lignin is an important secondary metabolite in plants. The biosynthesis of lignin is initiated by the transcriptional upregulation of genes encoding enzymes involved in monolignol biosynthesis and lignin polymerization. Based on studies of xylem differentiation over the last two decades, the NAC-MYB-based gene regulatory network (NAC-MYB-GRN) model is widely considered to underpin developmental lignin biosynthesis. We are now standing on the threshold of a new direction in transcriptional regulation research; the search for novel molecular hubs connecting developmental/environmental signals in lignin biosynthesis...
October 26, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Karolis Leonavicius, Juozas Nainys, Dalius Kuciauskas, Linas Mazutis
Biological samples are inherently heterogeneous and complex. Tackling this complexity requires innovative technological and analytical solutions. Recent advances in high-throughput single-cell isolation and nucleic acid barcoding methods are rapidly changing the technological landscape of biological sciences and now make it possible to measure the (epi)genomic, transcriptomic, or proteomic state of individual cells. In addition, few experimental approaches enable multi-omics measurements of the same cell. However, merging-omics data collected from different experiments remains a considerable challenge...
October 24, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Yuki Tobimatsu, Mathias Schuetz
The final step of lignin biosynthesis is the polymerization of monolignols in apoplastic cell wall domains. In this process, monolignols secreted by lignifying cells, or occasionally neighboring non-lignifying and/or other lignifying cells, are activated by cell-wall-localized oxidation systems, such as laccase/O2 and/or peroxidase/H2 O2 , for combinatorial radical coupling to make the final lignin polymers. Plants can precisely control when, where, and which types of lignin polymers are assembled at tissue and cellular levels, but do not control the polymers' exact chemical structures per se...
October 22, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Mendel Perkins, Rebecca A Smith, Lacey Samuels
Lignin is a highly abundant polymer in plant cell walls that is essential for land plants' ability to stand upright and transport water. Inside plant cells, lignin monomers, called monolignols, are made from phenylalanine via a multistep pathway. In the cell wall, monomers move freely, until they encounter stationary oxidative enzymes that determine where the lignin polymer forms. However, it remains unclear how lignin monomers are trafficked from inside the cell to the cell wall. Although multiple lines of circumstantial evidence implicate transporters, additional possible mechanisms include the diffusion of monomers across lipid bilayers and the release of monolignol glucosides stored in vacuoles...
October 19, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Christian Heck, Yael Michaeli, Ilko Bald, Yuval Ebenstein
The field of epigenetics describes the relationship between genotype and phenotype, by regulating gene expression without changing the canonical base sequence of DNA. It deals with molecular genomic information that is encoded by a rich repertoire of chemical modifications and molecular interactions. This regulation involves DNA, RNA and proteins that are enzymatically tagged with small molecular groups that alter their physical and chemical properties. It is now clear that epigenetic alterations are involved in development and disease, and thus, are the focus of intensive research...
October 13, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Mathias Girault, Thomas Beneyton, Yolanda Del Amo, Jean-Christophe Baret
Plankton produces numerous chemical compounds used in cosmetics and functional foods. They also play a key role in the carbon budget on the Earth. In a context of global change, it becomes important to understand the physiological response of these microorganisms to changing environmental conditions. Their adaptations and the response to specific environmental conditions are often restricted to a few active cells or individuals in large populations. Using analytical capabilities at the subnanoliter scale, microfluidic technology has also demonstrated a high potential in biological assays...
October 13, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Gopinath Danda, Marija Drndić
Two-dimensional (2D) materials from graphene to metal dichalcogenides and beyond, have interesting electrical, optical and mechanical properties. Recent advances in their growth, transfer and device physics have led to the shrinking of 2D material-based devices to the atomic scale and expanding their functionality. Single or multiple nanometer-scale holes, as small as single-atom vacancies, can be introduced in suspended atomically-thin 2D membranes, giving rise to nanopore and nanoporous devices, respectively...
October 12, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Peter A Bron, Barbara Marcelli, Joyce Mulder, Simon van der Els, Luiza P Morawska, Oscar P Kuipers, Jan Kok, Michiel Kleerebezem
The ever-expanding genomic insight in natural diversity of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) has revived the industrial interest in traditional and natural genetic mobilization methodologies. Here, we review recent advances in horizontal gene transfer processes in LAB, including natural competence, conjugation, and phage transduction. In addition, we envision the possibilities for industrial strain improvement arising from the recent discoveries of molecular exchanges between bacteria through nanotubes and extracellular vesicles, as well as the constantly expanding genome editing possibilities using the CRISPR-Cas technology...
October 11, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Michiel Kleerebezem, Sylvie Binda, Peter A Bron, Gabriele Gross, Colin Hill, Johan Et van Hylckama Vlieg, Sarah Lebeer, Reetta Satokari, Arthur C Ouwehand
The different levels of knowledge described in a translational pipeline (the connection of molecular mechanisms with pre-clinical physiological and human health effects) are not complete for many probiotics. At present, we are not in a position to fully understand the mechanistic basis of many well established probiotic health benefits which, in turn, limits our ability to use mechanisms to predict which probiotics are likely to be effective in any given population. Here we suggest that this concept of a translation pipeline connecting mechanistic insights to probiotic efficacy can support the selection and production of improved probiotic products...
October 5, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Miglė Tomkuvienė, Milda Mickutė, Giedrius Vilkaitis, Saulius Klimašauskas
Produced as linear biopolymers from four major types of building blocks, DNA and RNA are further furnished with a range of covalent modifications. Despite the impressive specificity of natural enzymes, the transferred groups are often poor reporters and not amenable to further derivatization. Therefore, strategies based on repurposing some of these enzymatic reactions to accept derivatized versions of the transferrable groups have been exploited. By far the most widely used are S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases, which along with several other nucleic acids modifying enzymes offer a broad selection of tagging chemistries and molecular features on DNA and RNA that can be targeted in vitro and in vivo...
October 5, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Hiroshi Shimizu, Fumio Matsuda
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
October 1, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Jaime Barros, Stephen Temple, Richard A Dixon
Reducing lignin content in forage legumes can improve digestibility and, correspondingly, animal performance, and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is the first genetically engineered crop commercialized for improved forage digestibility. Lignin reduction was achieved by downregulating the gene encoding caffeoyl-CoA 3-O-methyltransferase (CCoAOMT), and development of the commercial product, branded as HarvXtra, required the coordination of two research institutions and two companies, and more than 15 years of research and field trials...
September 27, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Roberto Galizi, Alfonso Jaramillo
CRISPR-based genome editing provides a simple and scalable toolbox for a variety of therapeutic and biotechnology applications. Whilst the fundamental properties of CRISPR proved easily transferable from the native prokaryotic hosts to eukaryotic and multicellular organisms, the tight control of the CRISPR-editing activity remains a major challenge. Here we summarise recent developments of CRISPR and riboswitch technologies and recommend novel functionalised synthetic-gRNA (sgRNA) designs to achieve inducible and spatiotemporal regulation of CRISPR-based genetic editors in response to cellular or extracellular stimuli...
September 25, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Tiebin Wang, Mary J Dunlop
Individual cells within a population can display diverse phenotypes due to differences in their local environment, genetic variation, and stochastic expression of genes. Understanding this cell-to-cell variation is important for metabolic engineering applications because variability can impact production. For instance, recent studies have shown that production can be highly heterogeneous among engineered cells, and strategies that manage this diversity improve yields of biosynthetic products. These results suggest the potential of controlling variation as a novel approach towards improving performance of engineered cells...
September 24, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Lei Pei, Markus Schmidt
Novel biotechnological approaches such as Metabolic Engineering (ME) and New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs) are currently being developed to produce biological compounds for food and non-food products. NPBTs span a range of methods for in vivo production in crops, some of which are classified as GMOs while others aren't. Deploying such techniques will not only provide new opportunities for industry, but also challenges with respect to the regulatory environment. Similarly, the process of communicating these new techniques and their products to stakeholders and consumers will not be without its own challenges...
September 21, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Holly Ekas, Matthew Deaner, Hal S Alper
Due to unsustainable petroleum supply and poor yields from plant and animal sources, there is an increased effort to engineer microbial hosts for renewable chemical production. When compared to microbes such as Escherichia coli, fungal hosts show advantages due to their natural robust tolerance for industrial fermentation. Synthetic biology has focused on implementing heterologous pathways and manipulating native flux towards downstream products to achieve industrial productivity, titers, and yields. This review highlights recent advances in the engineering of yeasts for fuels and other molecules...
September 20, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
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