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PROJECTS

Our goal is to automate genetic engineering processes and help in the democratization of this technology. Democratization in this context means creating tools to break down the complexity and cost of the process, allowing these new types of materials/manufacturing processes to become available to the public/industry in general.
Our main projects are related to functional screening techniques to help in the discovery and standardization of biological parts (plant promoters and extremophiles genes) for use in synthetic biology, as well as, molecular automation (Plug&Play project) and education through iGEM participation support.

Can a tobacco plant be used as a machine for producing promoter sequences?

 

 

Let's make it simple. A promoter is a part of the genetic code that is used as a localization mark for a gene, it says to the cell which gene must be expressed. There are different types of promoters, some are expressed always some others only under the specific stimulus, like sunlight or a chemical substance.

 

Therefore, the promoter by itself is a kind of sensor. If you have a promoter, which responds to light and plug it upstream a reporter gene, you get a light sensor. 

 

Finding promoters is a hard task. You can sequence the whole genome of organisms and look for patterns that resemble promoters, but the problem is that the promoters are a very diverse group of sequences. Also, you can plug random sequences or sequences that you might think are promoters to a reporter gene, and transform construction by construction into a tissue or plant cells. But it will take you a lot of time, so you won't produce many.

 

We are trying to find a high throughput way to do this.

  

Developer: Edgar Andrés Ochoa C.   

Founding:  FAPESP.

Partners:  GaTE-LAB at USP-São Paulo.

Can you build parts/genes to be used in other planets?

 

Extremophile organisms are microorganisms that live in the earth but they manage to live in pretty extreme conditions like: high temperature, high salt concentration or high UV. How do they do it? Well, we are trying to track which part or their genome could be related to this superpowers and characterize it. 

 

Developer: Cleandho Marcos de Souza.(cleandho@gmail.com)

Partners:  Bruno Karolski.

                  GaTE-LAB at USP-São Paulo.

                  AstroLab at USP-São Paulo.

Can we produce/find promoters by ourselves to be used as an alternative to patented ones?

 

Controlling the expression of transgenes is essential for protein production by genetically modified organisms for biotechnological proposes. Thus, the study of novel promoters capable of controlling gene expression is necessary to expand the number of tools in synthetic biology.

 

We are functionally characterizing the F7 promoter, previously isolated from plants through a random cloning methodology. It has been shown that this promoter displays high activity in leaves and roots of monocot plants when compared to other promoters isolated by the same methodology.

 

We want to determine the F7 promoter activity in different tissues and developmental stages for both monocot and dicot plants, aiming the usage of this promoter as a universal open source expression system for plants. 

 

Developer: Aline Bittar(alinefbittar@gmail.com)  

Partners:  GaTE-LAB at USP-São Paulo.

Alive platform for promoters characterization
New promoters characterization
Molecular screening of genes with industrial interest from extremophiles organism
Molecular screening tool for genes characterization (Plug&Play Project)

How to make genetic engineering an automatic process?

 

There are two different approaches to generating genetic engineering automation. You can use robots and programming languages (we have collaborations in this area) or make the organism to engineers itself. What? let me explain. 

 

We are building molecular tools that allow you to control or perform genetic modifications inside microorganisms (We will like to focus on plants too). This can lower the cost and the steps needed in the process. Our machine is called Plug&Play. 

 

The proof of concept of this technology won a silver medal in the 2012 iGEM competition. We built a single plasmid that allows expression of any protein in E. coli using two steps: PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and bacteria transformation. The system is based on the Cre recombinase protein, which catalyzes DNA recombination between specific recognition sites. No more time waste waiting till you clone in different plasmids!. This is an open source technology. 

 

The parts we built are online in the Registry of Biological Parts:

 

Part:BBa_K886000: Fixed lox71.

Part:BBa_K886001: Recombination Device composed by lox71-Cre.

Part:BBa_K886003: Recombination Device composed by Cre-lox71.

 

They are open source, this means you can use them if you want. The idea came from the video games. If you can use one device to read all your games, you should also be able to use bacteria or yeast to express all your proteins?  

 

Developer: Cauã Westmann (caua.westmann@gmail.com)

Past developers: Aline Bittar - Joana Guiro - Macarena López.

                             

                             

Plug&Play Project Results