Michael C. Jewett, a synthetic biologist at Northwestern, George M. Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues recently took another approach: they mimicked the natural synthesis of a ribosome, allowing natural enzymes of a cell to help facilitate the man-made construction.
"We can mimic nature and create ribosomes the way nature has evolved to do it, where all the processes are co-activated at the same time," said Jewett, who led the research along with Church.
Jewett is an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
likens a ribosome to a chef.
The ribosome takes the recipe, encoded in DNA, and makes the meal, or a protein.
"We want to make brand new chefs, or ribosomes," Jewett
"Then we can alter ribosomes to do new things for us."
"The ability to make ribosomes in vitro in a process that mimics the way biology does it opens new avenues for the study of ribosome synthesis and assembly, enabling us to better understand and possibly control the translation process," he
"Our technology also may enable us in the future to rapidly engineer modified ribosomes with new behaviors and functions, a potentially significant advance for the synthetic biology field."
The synthesis process developed by Jewett
and Church -- termed "integrated synthesis, assembly and translation" (iSAT) technology -- mimics nature by enabling ribosome synthesis, assembly and function in a single reaction and in the same compartment.
"I'm really excited about where we are," Jewett
"This study is an important step along the way to synthesizing a complete ribosome.
We will continue to push this work forward."
Jewett and Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, are authors of the paper, titled "In Vitro Integration of Ribosomal RNA Synthesis, Ribosome Assembly, and Translation.