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  1. Training the future synthetic biology workforce requires the opportunity for students to be exposed to biotechnology concepts and activities in secondary education. Detecting Wolbachia bacteria in arthropods using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has become a common way for secondary students to investigate and apply recombinant DNA technology in the science classroom. Despite this important activity, cutting-edge biotechnologies such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-based diagnostics have yet to be widely implemented in the classroom. To address this gap, we present a freeze-dried CRISPR-Cas12 sensing reaction to complement traditional recombinant DNA technology education and teach synthetic biology concepts. The reactions accurately detect Wolbachia from arthropod-derived PCR samples in under 2 h and can be stored at room temperature for over a month without appreciable degradation. The reactions are easy-to-use and cost less than $40 to implement for a classroom of 22 students including the cost of reusable equipment. We see these freeze-dried CRISPR-Cas12 reactions as an accessible way to incorporate synthetic biology education into the existing biology curriculum, which will expand biology educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 14, 2023
  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Cell-free gene expression (CFE) systems from crude cellular extracts have attracted much attention for biomanufacturing and synthetic biology. However, activating membrane-dependent functionality of cell-derived vesicles in bacterial CFE systems has been limited. Here, we address this limitation by characterizing native membrane vesicles in Escherichia coli- based CFE extracts and describing methods to enrich vesicles with heterologous, membrane-bound machinery. As a model, we focus on bacterial glycoengineering. We first use multiple, orthogonal techniques to characterize vesicles and show how extract processing methods can be used to increase concentrations of membrane vesicles in CFE systems. Then, we show that extracts enriched in vesicle number also display enhanced concentrations of heterologous membrane protein cargo. Finally, we apply our methods to enrich membrane-bound oligosaccharyltransferases and lipid-linked oligosaccharides for improving cell-free N- linked and O -linked glycoprotein synthesis. We anticipate that these methods will facilitate on-demand glycoprotein production and enable new CFE systems with membrane-associated activities.
  3. Conjugate vaccines are among the most effective methods for preventing bacterial infections. However, existing manufacturing approaches limit access to conjugate vaccines due to centralized production and cold chain distribution requirements. To address these limitations, we developed a modular technology for in vitro conjugate vaccine expression (iVAX) in portable, freeze-dried lysates from detoxified, nonpathogenic Escherichia coli. Upon rehydration, iVAX reactions synthesize clinically relevant doses of conjugate vaccines against diverse bacterial pathogens in 1 hour. We show that iVAX-synthesized vaccines against Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis (type A) strain Schu S4 protected mice from lethal intranasal F. tularensis challenge. The iVAX platform promises to accelerate development of new conjugate vaccines with increased access through refrigeration-independent distribution and portable production.
  4. Abstract Protein glycosylation, the enzymatic modification of amino acid sidechains with sugar moieties, plays critical roles in cellular function, human health, and biotechnology. However, studying and producing defined glycoproteins remains challenging. Cell-free glycoprotein synthesis systems, in which protein synthesis and glycosylation are performed in crude cell extracts, offer new approaches to address these challenges. Here, we review versatile, state-of-the-art systems for biomanufacturing glycoproteins in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell-free systems with natural and synthetic N-linked glycosylation pathways. We discuss existing challenges and future opportunities in the use of cell-free systems for the design, manufacture, and study of glycoprotein biomedicines.