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Front. Microbiol., 23 September 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2013.00285

Chemical synthetic biology: a mini-review

Cristiano Chiarabelli, Pasquale Stano and Pier Luigi Luisi*
  • Science Department, University of Roma Tre, Rome, Italy

Chemical synthetic biology (CSB) is a branch of synthetic biology (SB) oriented toward the synthesis of chemical structures alternative to those present in nature. Whereas SB combines biology and engineering with the aim of synthesizing biological structures or life forms that do not exist in nature – often based on genome manipulation, CSB uses and assembles biological parts, synthetic or not, to create new and alternative structures. A short epistemological note will introduce the theoretical concepts related to these fields, whereas the text will be largely devoted to introduce and comment two main projects of CSB, carried out in our laboratory in the recent years. The “Never Born Biopolymers” project deals with the construction and the screening of RNA and peptide sequences that are not present in nature, whereas the “Minimal Cell” project focuses on the construction of semi-synthetic compartments (usually liposomes) containing the minimal and sufficient number of components to perform the basic function of a biological cell. These two topics are extremely important for both the general understanding of biology in terms of function, organization, and development, and for applied biotechnology.

Keywords: liposomes, minimal cell, protein folding, random sequence, RNA stability, synthetic biology, synthetic cells

Citation: Chiarabelli C, Stano P and Luisi PL (2013) Chemical synthetic biology: a mini-review. Front. Microbiol. 4:285. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00285

Received: 05 June 2013; Accepted: 04 September 2013;
Published online: 23 September 2013.

Edited by:

Weiwen Zhang, Tianjin University, China

Reviewed by:

Martin Siemann-Herzberg, University Stuttgart, Germany
Jiangxin Wang, Arizona State University, USA
Lei Chen, Tianjin University, China

Copyright © 2013 Chiarabelli, Stano and Luisi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Pier Luigi Luisi, Science Department, University of Roma Tre, Viale Guglielmo Marconi 446, 00146 Rome, Italy e-mail: luisi@mat.ethz.ch