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Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2009 Jul-Aug;44(4):223-42. doi: 10.1080/10409230903074549.

Synthetic biology of minimal systems.

Author information

  • 1Biophysics/BIOTEC, TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany. schwille@biotec.tu-dresden.de

Abstract

"Synthetic biology" is a concept that has developed together with, or slightly after, "systems biology". But while systems biology aims at the full understanding of large systems by integrating more and more details into their models, synthetic biology phrases different questions, namely: what particular biological function could be obtained with a certain known subsystem of reduced complexity; can this function be manipulated or engineered in artificial environments or genetically modified organisms; and if so, how? The most prominent representation of synthetic biology has so far been microbial engineering by recombinant DNA technology, employing modular concepts known from information technology. However, there are an increasing number of biophysical groups who follow similar strategies of dissecting cellular processes and networks, trying to identify functional minimal modules that could then be combined in a bottom-up approach towards biology. These modules are so far not as particularly defined by their impact on DNA processing, but rather influenced by core fields of biophysics, such as cell mechanics and membrane dynamics. This review will give an overview of some classical and some quite new biophysical strategies for constructing minimal systems of certain cellular modules. We will show that with recent advances in understanding of cytoskeletal and membrane elements, the time might have come to experimentally challenge the concept of a minimal cell.

PMID:
19635039
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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