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Method for Inducing Bacterial Cell Membrane Synthe

Method for Inducing Bacterial Cell Membrane Synthesis

Quote Ref: KT134892

The Challenge

Membrane synthesis in bacteria is normally tightly controlled and closely co-ordinated with cell growth. As such it is usually the limiting factor for the production of several kinds of commercially important molecules including fatty acids, phospholipids and isoprenoid lipids.

The Solution

Researchers at Newcastle University have identified a method of inducing cell wall-less (L-) forms of bacteria that are a suitable chassis for the commercial production of target molecules.  A BioBrick switch has been developed that allows vegetative cells to be switched to L-forms within a fermenter, simply by modulating the concentration of xylose in the culture medium. This means that such cells can potentially be used for the commercial production of lipids and membrane proteins. Being able to switch between vegetative cell growth and L-forms considerably simplifies the processes involved in commercial production since following harvesting of L-forms by cross-flow filtration, decreasing the osmolarity of the suspending medium will result in cell lysis. The membrane lipids can easily be recovered from the resulting lysates.

The Opportunity

Bioprocessing applications
The ability to upregulate membrane synthesis and divert cell metabolic energy towards membrane synthesis and away from processes such as cell wall synthesis could significantly improve the efficiency of production of many membrane associated factors, including membrane proteins, fatty acids and lipids.

Artificial cell applications
This method has the potential for application in the production of artificial or semi-synthetic cells. Our results show that the complex division machinery can be dispensed with, provided that the level of membrane synthesis is sufficiently high. This work shows how artificial cells could be made to proliferate without needing to incorporate the complex division machinery.

The types of artificial cell that could be generated via this approach would be particularly suited to applications aimed at the production of various classes of membrane associated molecules. They could also be designed to fuse with other cells and used as delivery vehicles for drugs or to deliver vaccines.

Other applications
In situations in which avoiding the presence of bacterial cell wall material would be convenient, especially in medical, veterinary or cosmetic applications.

The technology is available for out-licensing.

Intellectual Property

Title: Cells and methods for fatty acid synthesis
Europe patent application no: EP14709381
Filing Date: 27.02.2014
Applicant: University of Newcastle upon Tyne


Dr Geraint Lewis, Enterprise Team, Research & Enterprise Services, Newcastle University, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK.