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Trends Cell Biol. 2012 Dec;22(12):662-70. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2012.07.002. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Designing biological compartmentalization.

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  • 1Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Intracellular organization is a key factor in cell metabolism. Cells have evolved various organizational systems to solve the challenges of toxic pathway intermediates, competing metabolic reactions, and slow turnover rates. Inspired by nature, synthetic biologists have utilized proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids to construct synthetic organizational systems that mimic natural systems. Many of these systems have been applied to metabolic pathways and shown to significantly increase the production of industrially and commercially important chemicals. Further engineering and characterization of synthetic organizational systems will allow us to better understand native cellular strategies of spatial organization. Here, we discuss recent advances and ongoing efforts in designing and characterizing synthetic compartmentalization systems to mimic natural strategies and increase metabolic yields of engineered pathways.

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