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  1. The bacterial strain JCVI-syn3.0 stands as the first example of a living organism with a minimized synthetic genome, derived from the Mycoplasma mycoides genome and chemically synthesized in vitro. Here, we report the experimental evolution of a syn3.0- derived strain. Ten independent replicates were evolved for several hundred generations, leading to growth rate improvements of > 15%. Endpoint strains possessed an average of 8 mutations composed of indels and SNPs, with a pronounced C/G- > A/T transversion bias. Multiple genes were repeated mutational targets across the independent lineages, including phase variable lipoprotein activation, 5 distinct; nonsynonymous substitutions in the same membrane transporter protein, and inactivation of an uncharacterized gene. Transcriptomic analysis revealed an overall tradeoff reflected in upregulated ribosomal proteins and downregulated DNA and RNA related proteins during adaptation. This work establishes the suitability of synthetic, minimal strains for laboratory evolution, providing a means to optimize strain growth characteristics and elucidate gene functionality. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  2. Previously, we found that Ureaplasma parvum internalised into HeLa cells and cyto- solic accumulation of galectin-3. U. parvum induced the host cellular membrane dam- age and survived there. Here, we conducted vesicular trafficking inhibitory screening in yeast to identify U. parvum vacuolating factor (UpVF). U. parvum triggered endo- plasmic reticulum (ER) stress and upregulated the unfolded protein response-related factors, including BiP, P-eIF2 and IRE1 in the host cells, but it blocked the induction of the downstream apoptotic factors. MicroRNA library screening of U. parvum- infected cells and UpVF-transfected cells identified miR-211 and miR-214 as the negative regulators of the apoptotic cascade under ER stress. Transient expression of UpVF induced HeLa cell death with intracellular vacuolization; however, some stable UpVF transformant survived. U. parvum-infected cervical cell lines showed resistance to actinomycin D, and UpVF stable transformant cell lines exhibited resistance to X- ray irradiation, as well as cisplatin and paclitaxel. UpVF expressing cervical cancer xenografts in nude mice also acquired resistance to cisplatin and paclitaxel. A myco- plasma expression vector based on Mycoplasma mycoides, Syn-MBA (multiple banded antigen)-UpVF, reduced HeLa cell survival compared with that of Syn-MBA after 72 hr of infection. These findings together suggest novel mechanisms for Ureaplasma infection and the possible implications for cervical cancer malignancy. 
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  3. Abstract

    Cell-free expression (CFE) systems are one of the main platforms for building synthetic cells. A major drawback is the orthogonality of cell-free systems across species. To generate a CFE system compatible with recently established minimal cell constructs, we attempted to optimize a Mycoplasma bacterium-based CFE system using lysates of the genome-minimized cell JCVI-syn3A (Syn3A) and its close phylogenetic relative Mycoplasma capricolum (Mcap). To produce mycoplasma-derived crude lysates, we systematically tested methods commonly used for bacteria, based on the S30 protocol of Escherichia coli. Unexpectedly, after numerous attempts to optimize lysate production methods or composition of feeding buffer, none of the Mcap or Syn3A lysates supported cell-free gene expression. Only modest levels of in vitro transcription of RNA aptamers were observed. While our experimental systems were intended to perform transcription and translation, our assays focused on RNA. Further investigations identified persistently high ribonuclease (RNase) activity in all lysates, despite removal of recognizable nucleases from the respective genomes and attempts to inhibit nuclease activities in assorted CFE preparations. An alternative method using digitonin to permeabilize the mycoplasma cell membrane produced a lysate with diminished RNase activity yet still was unable to support cell-free gene expression. We found that intact mycoplasma cells poisoned E. coli cell-free extracts by degrading ribosomal RNAs, indicating that the mycoplasma cells, even the minimal cell, have a surface-associated RNase activity. However, it is not clear which gene encodes the RNase. This work summarizes attempts to produce mycoplasma-based CFE and serves as a cautionary tale for researchers entering this field.

    Graphical Abstract


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  4. null (Ed.)
    JCVI-syn3A is a genetically minimal bacterial cell, consisting of 493 genes and only a single 543 kbp circular chromosome. Syn3A’s genome and physical size are approximately one-tenth those of the model bacterial organism Escherichia coli ’s, and the corresponding reduction in complexity and scale provides a unique opportunity for whole-cell modeling. Previous work established genome-scale gene essentiality and proteomics data along with its essential metabolic network and a kinetic model of genetic information processing. In addition to that information, whole-cell, spatially-resolved kinetic models require cellular architecture, including spatial distributions of ribosomes and the circular chromosome’s configuration. We reconstruct cellular architectures of Syn3A cells at the single-cell level directly from cryo-electron tomograms, including the ribosome distributions. We present a method of generating self-avoiding circular chromosome configurations in a lattice model with a resolution of 11.8 bp per monomer on a 4 nm cubic lattice. Realizations of the chromosome configurations are constrained by the ribosomes and geometry reconstructed from the tomograms and include DNA loops suggested by experimental chromosome conformation capture (3C) maps. Using ensembles of simulated chromosome configurations we predict chromosome contact maps for Syn3A cells at resolutions of 250 bp and greater and compare them to the experimental maps. Additionally, the spatial distributions of ribosomes and the DNA-crowding resulting from the individual chromosome configurations can be used to identify macromolecular structures formed from ribosomes and DNA, such as polysomes and expressomes. 
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  5. Johnson, Michael David (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Analysis of the genes retained in the minimized Mycoplasma JCVI-Syn3A genome established that systems that repair or preempt metabolite damage are essential to life. Several genes known to have such functions were identified and experimentally validated, including 5-formyltetrahydrofolate cycloligase, coenzyme A (CoA) disulfide reductase, and certain hydrolases. Furthermore, we discovered that an enigmatic YqeK hydrolase domain fused to NadD has a novel proofreading function in NAD synthesis and could double as a MutT-like sanitizing enzyme for the nucleotide pool. Finally, we combined metabolomics and cheminformatics approaches to extend the core metabolic map of JCVI-Syn3A to include promiscuous enzymatic reactions and spontaneous side reactions. This extension revealed that several key metabolite damage control systems remain to be identified in JCVI-Syn3A, such as that for methylglyoxal. IMPORTANCE Metabolite damage and repair mechanisms are being increasingly recognized. We present here compelling genetic and biochemical evidence for the universal importance of these mechanisms by demonstrating that stripping a genome down to its barest essentials leaves metabolite damage control systems in place. Furthermore, our metabolomic and cheminformatic results point to the existence of a network of metabolite damage and damage control reactions that extends far beyond the corners of it that have been characterized so far. In sum, there can be little room left to doubt that metabolite damage and the systems that counter it are mainstream metabolic processes that cannot be separated from life itself. 
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