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Current Opinion in Biotechnology

Xiaowei Li, Yun Chen, Jens Nielsen
Energy security, environmental pollution, and economic development drive the development of alternatives to fossil fuels as an urgent global priority. Lignocellulosic biomass has the potential to contribute to meeting the demand for biofuel production via hydrolysis and fermentation of released sugars, such as glucose, xylose, and arabinose. Construction of robust cell factories requires introducing and rewiring of their metabolism to efficiently use all these sugars. Here, we review recent advances in re-constructing pathways for metabolism of pentoses, with special focus on xylose metabolism in the most widely used cell factories Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Escherichia coli...
February 18, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Amanda Y van Tilburg, Haojie Cao, Sjoerd B van der Meulen, Ana Solopova, Oscar P Kuipers
Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approaches have prospered the field of biotechnology, in which the main focus has been on Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae as microbial workhorses. In more recent years, improving the Gram-positive bacteria Lactococcus lactis and Bacillus subtilis as production hosts has gained increasing attention. This review will demonstrate the different levels at which these bacteria can be engineered and their various application possibilities. For instance, engineered L...
February 18, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Hung X Nguyen, Nenad Bursac
Ion channels play essential roles in regulating electrical properties of excitable tissues. By leveraging various ion channel gating mechanisms, scientists have developed a versatile set of genetically encoded tools to modulate intrinsic tissue excitability under different experimental settings. In this article, we will review how ion channels activated by voltage, light, small chemicals, stretch, and temperature have been customized to enable control of tissue excitability both in vitro and in vivo. Advantages and limitations of each of these ion channel-engineering platforms will be discussed and notable applications will be highlighted...
February 15, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Anthony B DeNicola, Yi Tang
Mutated RNA splicing machinery drives many human diseases and is a promising therapeutic target for engineering and small molecule therapy. In the case of mutations in individual genes that cause them to be incorrectly spliced, engineered splicing factors can be introduced to correct splicing of these aberrant transcripts and reduce the effects of the disease phenotype. Mutations that occur in certain splicing factor genes themselves have been implicated in many cancers, particularly myelodysplastic syndromes...
February 14, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Alice Guarneri, Willem Jh van Berkel, Caroline E Paul
Coenzymes are ubiquitous in Nature, assisting in enzyme-catalysed reactions. Several coenzymes, nicotinamides and flavins, have been known for close to a century, whereas variations of those organic molecules have more recently come to light. In general, the requirement of these coenzymes imposes certain constraints for in vitro enzyme use in biocatalytic processes. Alternative coenzymes have risen to circumvent the cost factor, tune reaction rates or obtain different chemical reactivity. This review will focus on these alternatives and their role and applications in biocatalysis...
January 31, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Andrea Belluati, Ioana Craciun, Claire E Meyer, Serena Rigo, Cornelia G Palivan
One of the main features of living matter is compartmentalization, that is the temporal and spatial division of biological reactions and containment of the cellular components. Nanotechnology aims to replicate this, separating tiny environments from the exterior into nano-sized and micro-sized self-assembled compartments. Those synthetic compartments can perform reactions, be tracked and act in vivo. Here, an overview of the techniques to fabricate vesicular, polymer-based catalytic compartments and the parameters affecting their architecture is presented...
January 29, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Mari Kh Winkler, Levi Straka
This review summarizes strategies for biological nitrogen removal (BNR) and recovery from wastewater. The most commonly used BNR technology nitrification/denitrification is also the most energy intensive, even though there are lower energy options, including nitritation/denitritation and more efficient partial nitritation/Anammox; the latter is well demonstrated for side-stream treatment and progressing toward mainstream applications. Nitrogen recovery can be done through cell assimilation with phototrophs, but bottlenecks with solids separation and space requirements limit applications to tertiary treatment...
January 29, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Nicole Rockey, Heather N Bischel, Tamar Kohn, Brian Pecson, Krista R Wigginton
Protecting public health from pathogens is critical when treating wastewater to drinking water standards (i.e., planned water reuse). Viruses are a principal concern, yet real-time monitoring strategies do not currently measure virus removal through reuse processes. Flow cytometry (FCM) has enabled rapid and sensitive bacteria monitoring in water treatment applications, but methods for virus and protozoa monitoring remain immature. We discuss recent advances in the FCM field and FCM applications for quantifying microorganisms in water...
January 23, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Igor Cesarino
Lignin is not only important for plant growth and development but is also a major player in the response of plants to various biotic and abiotic stresses. Although the link between lignin and stresses has been widely demonstrated, the chemical nature and especially the molecular mechanisms underlying the biosynthesis of stress lignin remain largely unknown. Recent findings suggest that the structure of the polymer produced de novo seems to largely depend on the type and intensity of the stress and on the plant species...
January 23, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Sandra L McLellan, Adélaïde Roguet
Modern urban sewer pipe infrastructure is a unique niche where microbes can thrive. Arcobacter, Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, and Trichococcus are among the organisms that dominate the microbial community of sewage influent, but are not major members of human fecal microbiome, drinking water, or groundwater. Pipe resident communities in untreated sewage are distinct from sewer biofilm communities. Because of their high biomass, these organisms likely have a role in biotransformation of waste during conveyance and could represent an important inoculum for treatment plants...
January 22, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Fabiola Muro-Villanueva, Xiangying Mao, Clint Chapple
Lignin, a polymer found in the plant secondary cell wall, is a major contributor to biomass' recalcitrance toward saccharification. Because of this negative impact toward the value of lignocellulosic crops, there is a special interest in modifying the content and composition of this important plant biopolymer. For many years this endeavor has been hindered by the plant growth inhibition that is often associated with manipulations to phenylpropanoid metabolism. Although the actual mechanism by which dwarfism arises remains unknown, recent advances in tissue-specific lignin complementation and better understanding of phenylpropanoid transcriptional regulation has made it possible to disentangle lignin modification from perturbations in plant development...
January 21, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Saulius Klimašauskas, Linas Mažutis
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
January 7, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Tom Renders, Gil Van den Bossche, Thijs Vangeel, Korneel Van Aelst, Bert Sels
Reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF) of lignocellulose is an emerging biorefinery scheme that combines biomass fractionation with lignin depolymerisation. Central to this scheme is the integration of heterogeneous catalysis, which overcomes the tendency of lignin to repolymerise. Ultimately, this leads to a low-Mw lignin oil comprising a handful of lignin-derived monophenolics in close-to-theoretical yield, as well as a carbohydrate pulp. Both product streams are considered to be valuable resources for the bio-based chemical industry...
January 6, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Devin L Trudeau, Dan S Tawfik
The advent of laboratory directed evolution yielded a fruitful crosstalk between the disciplines of molecular evolution and bio-engineering. Here, we outline recent developments in both disciplines with respect to how one can identify the best starting points for directed evolution, such that highly efficient and robust tailor-made enzymes can be obtained with minimal optimization. Directed evolution studies have highlighted essential features of engineer-able enzymes: highly stable, mutationally robust enzymes with the capacity to accept a broad range of substrates...
January 2, 2019: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Donald B Kohn
Genetic diseases affecting proteins and cells composing the blood may be treated by gene therapy using gene addition or gene editing methods. Protein deficiencies (e.g. hemophilia) are being approached using in vivo gene delivery by adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for therapeutic gene addition or gene editing. Blood cell diseases (e.g. sickle cell disease) are being approached using ex vivo gene addition or gene editing to treat isolated blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells or T cells that are then re-transplanted...
December 29, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Emilien Dubuc, Pascal A Pieters, Ardjan J van der Linden, Jan Cm van Hest, Wilhelm Ts Huck, Tom Fa de Greef
Recent efforts in synthetic biology have shown the possibility of engineering distributed functions in populations of living cells, which requires the development of highly orthogonal, genetically encoded communication pathways. Cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) reactions encapsulated in microcompartments enable prototyping of molecular communication channels and their integration into engineered genetic circuits by mimicking critical cell features, such as gene expression, cell size, and cell individuality within a community...
December 26, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Raphael Frey, Takahiro Hayashi, Rebecca M Buller
As industrial biocatalysis is maturing, access to enzymatic activities beyond chiral resolutions, asymmetric ketone reductions and reductive aminations is gradually becoming reality. Especially the utilization of carbon-hydrogen bond (C-H) activating enzymes is very attractive as they catalyze a variety of chemically extremely challenging transformations. Because of their intrinsic complexity, the use of these enzymes in manufacturing has been limited. However, recent advances in enzyme engineering and bioinformatics have led to activity improvements for native and non-native substrates, the introduction of new-to-nature chemistries and the identification of promising novel enzyme families...
December 21, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Jack P Wang, Megan L Matthews, Punith P Naik, Cranos M Williams, Joel J Ducoste, Ronald R Sederoff, Vincent L Chiang
The pathway of monolignol biosynthesis involves many components interacting in a metabolic grid to regulate the supply and ratios of monolignols for lignification. The complexity of the pathway challenges any intuitive prediction of the output without mathematical modeling. Several models have been presented to quantify the metabolic flux for monolignol biosynthesis and the regulation of lignin content, composition, and structure in plant cell walls. Constraint-based models using data from transgenic plants were formulated to describe steady-state flux distribution in the pathway...
December 14, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Elena Eremeeva, Piet Herdewijn
To increase the scope of natural biosystem, nucleic acids have been intensively modified. One direction includes the development of a synthetic alternative to the native DNA and RNA, denoted Xenobiotic nucleic acids (XNAs) that are able to store and transfer genetic information either by base-modification or backbone-modification. Another line of research aims to develop alternative third base pair additional to natural A:T and G:C. These unnatural base pairs (UBPs) can store increased information content encoded in three base pairs...
December 13, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Linde Van Landuyt, Chiara Lonigro, Leander Meuris, Nico Callewaert
For a long time, glycoprotein production has been limited by the inherent properties of production hosts. Glycosylation of biopharmaceuticals has been regarded as a necessary evil, often needed for protein folding or function, but also a source of heterogeneity, complicating downstream processing and product characterization. This has strongly determined the choice of production hosts. Over the last few decades, numerous glycoengineering efforts have helped solving this problem. Moreover, insights from fundamental studies have made it possible to improve therapeutic protein functionality through careful glycoengineering...
December 13, 2018: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
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