Holistic engineering of cell-free systems through proteome-reprogramming synthetic circuits.Nat Commun. 2020 Jun 19; 11(1):3138.NC
Synthetic biology has focused on engineering genetic modules that operate orthogonally from the host cells. A synthetic biological module, however, can be designed to reprogram the host proteome, which in turn enhances the function of the synthetic module. Here, we apply this holistic synthetic biology concept to the engineering of cell-free systems by exploiting the crosstalk between metabolic networks in cells, leading to a protein environment more favorable for protein synthesis. Specifically, we show that local modules expressing translation machinery can reprogram the bacterial proteome, changing the expression levels of more than 700 proteins. The resultant feedback generates a cell-free system that can synthesize fluorescent reporters, protein nanocages, and the gene-editing nuclease Cas9, with up to 5-fold higher expression level than classical cell-free systems. Our work demonstrates a holistic approach that integrates synthetic and systems biology concepts to achieve outcomes not possible by only local, orthogonal circuits.