Synthetic Evolution: Unleashing the power of evolution using synbio technologies
by Xiao Yi | Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, CAS
Abstract ID: 21
Event: The 3rd AsiaEvo Conference
Topic: Fitness landscapes bridge evolution and molecular biology
Presenter Name: Xiao Yi

Theory and empirical observations elude to a plausible world of life of which the observed lives in nature is only a part. Here, we propose the approach of Synthetic Evolution in which synthetic biology technologies are specifically developed to explore the regions in the adaptive landscape that are hidden in nature. In terms of synthetic mutation rate, we designed a protein complex of targeted artificial DNA replisome (TADR) that operates in live cells to processively replicate one strand of a plasmid with errors. It enhanced mutation rates of target plasmid up to 2.3 × 10^5–fold with only a 78-fold increase in off-target mutagenesis. Applying TADR, we evolved an E. coli specific phage to lyse Salmonella within two months, expanding host range  of the phage beyond the boundary between species. In terms of synthetic selective pressure, we designed a bacterial treadmill, an automated machine in which a large population of bacteria was constantly selected for growth and chemotaxis without any population bottle-necking. This extreme selective pressure found mutant bacteria with surprising behaviors. Synthetic Evolution is promising in deepening our understanding of life and generating useful biological products.