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Cafe Synthetique: Designing Molecular Machines

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Alexandra Ting.

CafĂ© Synthetique is the monthly meetup for the Cambridge synthetic biology community with informal talks, discussion and pub snacks. It is kindly sponsored by Cambridge Consultants. This month, we’ll be hearing talks on designing complex RNA machines.

“Controlling orthogonal ribosome subunit interactions enables evolution of new function” Zakir Tnimov (Chin Lab, MRC LMB )

Ribosomes are the molecular machines that translate genetic information into proteins, which are polymers with a defined sequence of amino acids, linked by peptide bonds. The chemical repertoire of proteins is limited to twenty-one canonical amino acids connected by the universally conserved peptide backbone. We aim to combine precise ribosomal polymer synthesis with the versatile repertoire of backbone chemistries from synthetic polymers.

We created a host-independent (orthogonal) ribosome where small and large subunits are connected via RNA hinge and via optimisation of this linker we minimised its association with the host ribosome subunits and improved its activity. Physically connecting ribosome subunits let us endow the large subunit via directed evolution to polymerize a sequence of monomers that the natural ribosome is intrinsically unable to translate.

Ref doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0773-z


“Engineering a self-replicating RNA machine” Eduardo Gianni (Holliger Lab, MRC LMB )

Current biological systems use an intricate interaction of DNA , RNA and proteins to achieve self-sustained replication. It is not clear how such apparatus could arise spontaneously at the origins of life, and it is thought to have been preceded by a simpler framework where RNA was acting both as genetic information and catalyst for replication. It is impossible to look back at how this system worked, but synthetic biology provides us with the tools to build complex RNA machinery from scratch reminiscent of these primordial enzymes. We have recently developed an RNA enzyme (i.e. ribozyme) that is capable of copying a variety of RNA sequences, including parts of itself. This talk will focus on the evolution of such a ribozyme, its capabilities and the challenges ahead.

This talk is part of the Engineering Biology Interdisciplinary Research Centre series.

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