Eric Young, Ph.D.
Host: Robert Dempski, Ph. D.
Promoters, Terminators, and Transporters: Engineering and Understanding Sequence-Function Relationships in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
In the post-genomic era, a wealth of sequence data has enabled functional exploration of many natural DNA sequences – both genes and gene expression machinery – in synthetic contexts. This has led to an explosion in our understanding of genome function. It has also led to many “bioprospecting” and “deep part mining” efforts to find genes and gene expression machinery with desired behaviors for engineering biology. Yet, at times the desired function is not found or does not exist, or, more often, the function is discovered but generalizable sequence rules are unclear. To create new functions, and learn general design rules, engineering approaches based on synthetic sequences and modeling are required. I will describe two such approaches undertaken in baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae – a directed evolution approach to switch substrate preference of a membrane transporter from glucose to xylose, and a large-scale gene expression characterization approach that leads to deeper understanding and greater predictability of expression strength. With these approaches, it becomes easier and faster to design and engineer new functions into S. cerevisiae, an industrial platform organism.