Never mind outside-the-box thinking. Outside-the-cell thinking promises to solve a difficult problem—how to reconstitute cellular reactions outside of biological systems, and to do so in a practical, cost-efficient way. At present, it is difficult to assemble synthetic cell-free systems that can emulate the multistep processes that occur naturally within cells.
These cell-free systems typically require multiple proteins, which may be extracted from whole cells and used directly for in vitro translation. Unfortunately, proteins extracted by this method can contain cytoplasm and other elements of the original cell—impurities that are undesirable for some applications. Another method involves purifying all the necessary proteins separately before blending them together. The separate expression and purification of the individual proteins is expensive and time consuming, however, making the production of more than several proteins at once extremely challenging.
The problems encountered with existing approaches may be overcome with an approach recently developed by scientists based at the University of California, Davis. These scientists, led by Cheemeng Tan, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering, have demonstrated that bacterial consortia can be used to reconstitute cellular pathways ex vivo. The scientists applied their approach to a particularly difficult problem: the preparation of the 34 proteins involved in transcription and translation.
Outside-the-Cell Thinking Simplifies Assembly of Pure Protein Synthesis Machinery