Have you ever used the expression: “That’s in my DNA !” when you wanted to describe what’s important for you ? It is a very common expression! Indeed in our society, DNA means much more than just deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a ‘concept’ that society has appropriated. DNA refers to our essence, what makes sense for us and builds our identity!
On the other hand, DNA can be frightening. Its modification and propagation can crystallize fears that threaten the fulfillment of synthetic biology projects. To address the issue of GMO containment, many teams have engineered so called kill-switches based on toxins that can be expressed under controlled conditions. Since 2008, at least six teams have attempted to use deoxyribonucleases to eliminate the genome of their reprogrammed machine, in order to destroy both the GMOs and their DNA and thereby prevent possible horizontal gene transfer. However, all teams were, to our knowledge, unsuccessful.
Our team GO Paris-Saclay decided the challenge was worth the effort, because DNA degradation does not mean immediate cell lysis, and a DNA-less cell could still perform preprogrammed functions. What are the consequences of destroying DNA within a cell? Could a DNA-less cell be still useful? Is this the end of everything or the beginning of something new?
Using an arabinose-inducible promoter that could be tightly repressed by glucose, our team successfully cloned in Escherichia coli three distinct nucleases from different phages. Within 30 min of induction, bacterial cell growth was arrested and CFU recovery was reduced 100- to 1000-fold. Bacterial DNA degradation was confirmed by the decrease in genomic DNA recovery and by the absence of DAPI staining observed under fluorescence microscopy.
Our project aims at demonstrating the potential of DNA-free cells. Therefore we went further than just removing DNA and expanded the sphere of possibilities with a cell deprived of its DNA. You may be surprised by our results !
Use language beauty
To show all the potential of DNA free cells
Discover how our work opens interesting avenues in developing new kinds of synthetic organisms devoid of DNA. These possibilities, both exciting and unsettling in a world where DNA is a synonym for identity, were the object of an artistic exchange with scientists and non-scientists, under the form of Japanese-style poems. Since the chassis of our project is a DNA-less cell with a shortened life span, we decided to produce haikus to illustrate our experiments. Indeed, Haikus are Japanese poems composed of only 3 sentences of 5 / 7 / 5 syllables, respectively. They classically reflect the fleeting beauty of Life, expressing ephemeral but strong feelings.
We invite you to find out what the results of the DNA-Free POETential project can inspire to you. Discover our poems and the thoughts of philosophers who think your way!
(More explanations here: Philosophical iGAME).
You may even feel inspired to participate to our project by writing haikus (in all languages) about the fate of a DNA-less cell, our planned experiments, or any ideas related to synthetic biology. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Let us surprise you with our project that illustrates how "less is more" also in synthetic biology.