4th New Phytologist Workshop: SynBio toolbox for secondary metabolite synthesis

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Published on: June 20, 2012

The objective of much of the work presented at the 4th Annual New Phytologist Workshop was a ‘SynBio Toolbox’. The intended aim is that these toolboxes can be used to make anything the user wants, be it a novel antibiotic, chemical cell, or micromachine. The most important characteristic of all the ‘toolboxes’ was that the components must be orthologous – the pieces, or tools, must be useful for a wide variety of end products, so interchangeable within certain parameters

Eriko Takano’s group at the University of Groningen have taken on the much-needed but unenviable task of making a ‘toolbox’ of antibiotic synthesis genes. Their oracle is an online tool they developed called antiSMASH, which finds and annotates secondary metabolite biosynthesis gene clusters in a DNA sequence. Once the genes are identified in silico, they can be found and manipulated in vivo. The Takano group successfully used this method to re-awaken the cryptic CPK gene cluster and discover two novel compounds with anti-bacterial activity.

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