Novel artificial genomic DNA can replicate and evolve outside the cell: Hopes for the construction of artificial cells that can grow and evolve autonomously

Professor Norikazu Ichihashi and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo have succeeded in inducing gene expression from a DNA, characteristic of all life, and evolution through continuous replication using cell-free materials alone.

Living organisms have the ability to evolve. There are no artificial materials with these characteristics. In order to create an artificial system that can grow and evolve, the information in the genes must be translated into the correct form of the molecule, the cycle of the replication of the genes must continue for a long time, and the expression of the genes must be done. It has been difficult to create a reaction system in which the genes necessary for DNA replication are expressed while the genes that carry out their function are not.

The group succeeded in replicating the original circular DNA with the translated proteins by using a cell-free transcription-translation system and two genes necessary for DNA replication. They were able to improve the DNA to evolve to a DNA with a 10-fold increase in replication efficiency by continuing this cycle for 60 days.

It could be possible to create artificial cells that can grow autonomously by feeding them low-molecular-weight compounds, such as amino acids and nucleotides, by adding the genes necessary for transcription and translation to the artificial genomic DNA developed by the group. If artificial cells can be created, we can expect that useful substances currently produced using living organisms will become more stable and easier to control.

Professor Norikazu Ichihashi is a research director of the project "Development of a self-regenerative artificial genome replication-transcription-translation system" under the JST's Strategic. JST wants to understand the structure and function of genomes in order to create a platform technology for the use of cells.

A cell-free transcription and translation system.

A reaction solution containing all the factors needed for the translation of genes intoRNA from the cells. The reconstituted PURE system was used in the present study. It is composed of known and purified genes. The system is free of unknown elements. The Takuya Ueda's laboratory at the University of Tokyo was where the system was developed by the RIKEN Center for Frontier Biosciences.

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The Japan Science and Technology Agency provided the materials. Content can be edited for style and length.

Journal reference

Norikazu Ichihashi and Hiroki Okauchi. Continuous cell-free replication and the evolution of artificial Genomic DNA are done in a compartmentalized Gene Expression System. The paper is titled "ACS Synthetic Biology, 2021."