The development of new mRNA-ribosome pairs that function orthogonally - in parallel with, but without affecting, endogenous ribosomal translation, is reported by a paper in the August issue of Nature Chemical Biology.
A major goal of synthetic biology is to reprogram cells to carry out non-natural functions. By designing an orthogonal translational system, Chin and colleagues have taken a step toward designing "synthetic" cellular pathways.
he authors first developed a method for selecting orthogonal ribosome-mRNA pairs that function together, but in which the ribosome does not recognize native cellular mRNA and the mRNA is not translated by native ribosomes. They then used one of these cognate mRNA-ribosome pairs to program cells with "Boolean logic" - requiring one term AND another term to be present to produce an outcome. To set up the system, the authors attached one piece of the enzyme beta-galactosidase to an orthogonal mRNA and the other fragment to a native cellular mRNA. As expected, a functional beta-galactosidase enzyme was only formed when both the orthogonal and endogenous ribosome-mRNA pairs were expressed.
By programming the cell to perform this simple logic function, Chin and coworkers show how these orthogonal modules can be used to generate new cellular networks.
Jason Chin (Cambridge University, UK)
Also published online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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