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ACS Synth Biol. 2012 Nov 16;1(11):514-25. doi: 10.1021/sb300094q.

Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering.

Author information

1
Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Building 56 Room 469C, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. gregstep@mit.edu

Abstract

Metabolic engineering emerged 20 years ago as the discipline occupied with the directed modification of metabolic pathways for the microbial synthesis of various products. As such, it deals with the engineering (design, construction, and optimization) of native as well as non-natural routes of product synthesis, aided in this task by the availability of synthetic DNA, the core enabling technology of synthetic biology. The two fields, however, only partially overlap in their interest in pathway engineering. While fabrication of biobricks, synthetic cells, genetic circuits, and nonlinear cell dynamics, along with pathway engineering, have occupied researchers in the field of synthetic biology, the sum total of these areas does not constitute a coherent definition of synthetic biology with a distinct intellectual foundation and well-defined areas of application. This paper reviews the origins of the two fields and advances two distinct paradigms for each of them: that of unit operations for metabolic engineering and electronic circuits for synthetic biology. In this context, metabolic engineering is about engineering cell factories for the biological manufacturing of chemical and pharmaceutical products, whereas the main focus of synthetic biology is fundamental biological research facilitated by the use of synthetic DNA and genetic circuits.

PMID:
23656228
DOI:
10.1021/sb300094q
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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