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  1. Fitness landscapes are models of the sequence space of a genetic element that map how each sequence corresponds to its activity and can be used to guide laboratory evolution. The ribosome is a macromolecular machine that is essential for protein synthesis in all organisms. Because of the prevalence of dominant lethal mutations, a comprehensive fitness landscape of the ribosomal peptidyl transfer center (PTC) has not yet been attained. Here, we develop a method to functionally map an orthogonal tethered ribosome (oRiboT), which permits complete mutagenesis of nucleotides located in the PTC and the resulting epistatic interactions. We found that most nucleotides studied showed flexibility to mutation, and identified epistatic interactions between them, which compensate for deleterious mutations. This work provides a basis for a deeper understanding of ribosome function and malleability and could be used to inform design of engineered ribosomes with applications to synthesize next-generation biomaterials and therapeutics.

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  2. Abstract

    Genome editing technologies introduce targeted chromosomal modifications in organisms yet are constrained by the inability to selectively modify repetitive genetic elements. Here we describe filtered editing, a genome editing method that embeds group 1 self-splicing introns into repetitive genetic elements to construct unique genetic addresses that can be selectively modified. We introduce intron-containing ribosomes into theE. coligenome and perform targeted modifications of these ribosomes using CRISPR/Cas9 and multiplex automated genome engineering. Self-splicing of introns post-transcription yields scarless RNA molecules, generating a complex library of targeted combinatorial variants. We use filtered editing to co-evolve the 16S rRNA to tune the ribosome’s translational efficiency and the 23S rRNA to isolate antibiotic-resistant ribosome variants without interfering with native translation. This work sets the stage to engineer mutant ribosomes that polymerize abiological monomers with diverse chemistries and expands the scope of genome engineering for precise editing and evolution of repetitive DNA sequences.

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  4. Abstract

    Advances in synthetic biology permit the genetic encoding of synthetic chemistries at monomeric precision, enabling the synthesis of programmable proteins with tunable properties. Bacterial pili serve as an attractive biomaterial for the development of engineered protein materials due to their ability to self-assemble into mechanically robust filaments. However, most biomaterials lack electronic functionality and atomic structures of putative conductive proteins are not known. Here, we engineer high electronic conductivity in pili produced by a genomically-recodedE. colistrain. Incorporation of tryptophan into pili increased conductivity of individual filaments >80-fold. Computationally-guided ordering of the pili into nanostructures increased conductivity 5-fold compared to unordered pili networks. Site-specific conjugation of pili with gold nanoparticles, facilitated by incorporating the nonstandard amino acid propargyloxy-phenylalanine, increased filament conductivity ~170-fold. This work demonstrates the sequence-defined production of highly-conductive protein nanowires and hybrid organic-inorganic biomaterials with genetically-programmable electronic functionalities not accessible in nature or through chemical-based synthesis.

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  5. The genetic code defines how information in the genome is translated into protein. Aside from a handful of isolated exceptions, this code is universal. Researchers have developed techniques to artificially expand the genetic code, repurposing codons and translational machinery to incorporate nonstandard amino acids (nsAAs) into proteins. A key challenge for robust genetic code expansion is orthogonality; the engineered machinery used to introduce nsAAs into proteins must co-exist with native translation and gene expression without cross-reactivity or pleiotropy. The issue of orthogonality manifests at several levels, including those of codons, ribosomes, aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, tRNAs, and elongation factors. In this concept paper, we describe advances in genome recoding, translational engineering and associated challenges rooted in establishing orthogonality needed to expand the genetic code. 
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