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Synthetic Biology - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780123944306, 9780123978202

Synthetic Biology

1st Edition

Tools and Applications

Editor: Huimin Zhao
Hardcover ISBN: 9780123944306
eBook ISBN: 9780123978202
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 21st May 2013
Page Count: 352
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Synthetic Biology provides a framework to examine key enabling components in the emerging area of synthetic biology. Chapters contributed by leaders in the field address tools and methodologies developed for engineering biological systems at many levels, including molecular, pathway, network, whole cell, and multi-cell levels. The book highlights exciting practical applications of synthetic biology such as microbial production of biofuels and drugs, artificial cells, synthetic viruses, and artificial photosynthesis. The roles of computers and computational design are discussed, as well as future prospects in the field, including cell-free synthetic biology and engineering synthetic ecosystems.

Synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological entities, such as enzymes, genetic circuits, and cells, or the redesign of existing biological systems. It builds on the advances in molecular, cell, and systems biology and seeks to transform biology in the same way that synthesis transformed chemistry and integrated circuit design transformed computing. The element that distinguishes synthetic biology from traditional molecular and cellular biology is the focus on the design and construction of core components that can be modeled, understood, and tuned to meet specific performance criteria and the assembly of these smaller parts and devices into larger integrated systems that solve specific biotechnology problems.

Key Features

  • Includes contributions from  leaders in the field presents examples of ambitious synthetic biology efforts including creation of artificial cells from scratch, cell-free synthesis of chemicals, fuels, and proteins, engineering of artificial photosynthesis for biofuels production, and creation of unnatural living organisms
  • Describes the latest state-of-the-art tools developed for low-cost synthesis of ever-increasing sizes of DNA and efficient modification of proteins, pathways, and genomes
  • Highlights key technologies for analyzing biological systems at the genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic levels which are especially valuable in pathway, whole cell, and multi-cell applications
  • Details mathematical modeling tools and computational tools which can dramatically increase the speed of the design process as well as reduce the cost of development. 


Geneticists, molecular biologists, physicists, chemists, and bioengineers

Table of Contents



Synthetic Biology: What is in a Name?

Synthetic Biology: What’s New?

Synthetic Biology: What’s Next?

Section I: Synthesis and Engineering Tools in Synthetic Biology

Chapter 1. New Tools for Cost-Effective DNA Synthesis


Oligonucleotide Synthesis

Gene Assembly

Quality Control

Applications of DNA Synthesis




Chapter 2. Protein Engineering as an Enabling Tool for Synthetic Biology


Protein Engineering Methods

Applications of Protein Engineering in Synthetic Biology



Chapter 3. Pathway Engineering as an Enabling Synthetic Biology Tool


Design and Construction of Pathways

Pathway Optimization

Applications of Pathway Engineering Tools

Conclusions and Future Prospects



Chapter 4. From Biological Parts to Circuit Design


The Parts

Assembling Parts

Circuit Design




Section II: Computational and Theoretical Tools in Synthetic Biology

Chapter 5. Theoretical Considerations for Reprogramming Multicellular Systems


Conceptual Framework: Gene Regulatory Networks, Network States, and Cell Types

The Quasi-Potential Landscape

How to Obtain a Trajectory on the Quasi-Potential Landscape for Transition Between Two Attractors

Example: State Transition in Blood Cell and Pancreas Cell Differentiation and Reprogramming

Conclusion and Outlook


Chapter 6. Computational Protein Design for Synthetic Biology


Methods Overview

Computational Design of Protein–protein Interactions

Computational Design of Catalytic Activity

Protein Thermostabilization by Computational Design

Computational Design of (Novel) Protein Folds

Complementarity with Directed Evolution

Conclusion and Outlook


Chapter 7. Computer-Aided Design of Synthetic Biological Constructs with the Synthetic Biology Software Suite


Synthetic Logical-AND Gates and Protein Devices

The Synthetic Biology Software Suite




Chapter 8. Computational Methods for Strain Design


Fundamental Components of Synthetic Biology

Computational Prediction Tools for Synthetic Biology Components

Computational Tools for Pathway Prediction

Computational Tools for Strain Optimization

Synthetic Biology for Systems-Level Metabolic Engineering

Concluding Remarks



Section III: Applications in Synthetic Biology

Chapter 9. Design and Application of Synthetic Biology Devices for Therapy


Target Organisms and Cell Types for Therapeutic Applications of Synthetic Biology

Molecular Toolkit for Synthetic Biology

Therapeutic Applications of Synthetic Biology

Conclusion: Challenges and Safety Issues


Chapter 10. Drug Discovery and Development via Synthetic Biology


Tools for Pathway Discovery and Engineering


Conclusions and Future Perspectives



Chapter 11. Synthetic Biology of Microbial Biofuel Production: From Enzymes to Pathways to Organisms


Pathway Design and Optimization

Host Engineering

Future Prospects


Chapter 12. Tools for Genome Synthesis


DNA Size Limit by E. coli Plasmid

Genome Cloning Using a Bottom-Up Approach

The KEIO Method

Mitochondria and Chloroplast: Organelle Guest Genomes in BGM

Bottom-Up Approaches for De Novo Genome Production

Costs to Synthesize Genomes

Relevant Methods to Support Genome Synthesis

Future Perspectives of BGM Systems Accrued from the Present Achievements



Chapter 13. Synthetic Microbial Consortia and their Applications


Communication in Synthetic Multicellular Systems

Engineering Unidirectional Communication

Engineered Cooperation in Synthetic Microbial Consortia

Programming Antagonistic Interactions between Populations

Spatial Organization in Synthetic Consortia

Synthetic Biofilms Lead to Stable Consortia Behavior Over a Long Period of Time

Advances in Technology Allow the Precise Spatial Arrangement of Synthetic Consortia

The Evolution of Cooperation Can Yield Novel Behaviors in Synthetic Consortia

Applications of Synthetic Consortia in Industrial Processes and Medicine

Future Challenges


Section IV: Future Prospects

Chapter 14. Semi-Synthetic Minimal Cells: Biochemical, Physical, and Technological Aspects


The Conceptual Framework of Semisynthetic Minimal Cells

Reconstruction of Genetic/Metabolic Processes in Semisynthetic Minimal Cells

Physical Aspects of SSMC Construction: Implications for the Origin of Life

SSMCs as a Biotechnological Tool

Some Open Questions and Future Perspectives

Concluding Remarks



Chapter 15. Transforming Synthetic Biology with Cell-Free Systems


Cell-Free Biology

Advantages of Cell-Free Biology

Existing Technologies and Applications in Cell-Free Synthetic Biology

Challenges and Opportunities




Chapter 16. Towards Engineered Light–Energy Conversion in Nonphotosynthetic Microorganisms


Incorporation of Simple Light-Driven Proton Pumps Into Engineered Microorganisms

Increasing the Complexity and Efficiency of Light-Energy Capture and Conversion

Combining Light-Energy Conversion and CO2 Fixation

From Biological to Artificial Photosynthetic Systems

Future Directions


Chapter 17. Applications of Engineered Synthetic Ecosystems


Targeting Microbial Communities for Forward Engineering

Towards Synthetic Community Engineering

Future Prospects for Synthetic Ecosystems





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© Academic Press 2013
21st May 2013
Academic Press
Hardcover ISBN:
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About the Editor

Huimin Zhao

Huimin Zhao

Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Centennial Endowed Chair Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Dr. Frances Arnold. Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company. He was promoted to full professor in 2008. Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored 150 research articles and 20 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry. In addition, he has given plenary, keynote or invited lectures in more than 170 international meetings and institutions. Eight of his former graduate students and postdocs became professors in the US and other countries.

Dr. Zhao received numerous research and teaching awards and honors, including Guggenheim Fellowship (2012), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2010), Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) (2009), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Food, Pharmaceutical, and Bioengineering Division Plenary Award Lecturer (2009), the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Biochemical Technology Young Investigator Award (2008), Outstanding Overseas Young Chinese Scholars Award (2007), DuPont Young Professor Award (2005), National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2004), Dow Chemical Special Recognition Award (1999), Xerox Award for Faculty Research from UIUC College of Engineering (2005), Petit Scholar from UIUC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2006), and University Scholar from UIUC (2007). Dr. Zhao served as a consultant for over 10 companies such as Pfizer, Maxygen, BP, Gevo, and zuChem, and a Scientific Advisory Board member of Gevo and Myriant Technologies. He is also an advisor to the Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research program. Dr. Zhao is an Associate Editor of ACS Catalysis and an editor of ACS Synthetic Biology, Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, and Scientific Reports (Nature). His primary research interests are in the development and applications of synthetic biology tools to address society’s most daunting challenges in human health and energy, and in the fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis, cell metabolism, and gene regulation.

Affiliations and Expertise

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA


"Synthetic Biology: Tools and Applications. Edited by Huimin Zhao. Academic Press. Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and Boston (Massachusetts): Elsevier. $149.95. xviii 333 p.; ill.; index. ISBN: 978-0-12-394430-6. 2013." - The Quarterly Review of Biology,September 2014

"Chemical, biological, and biochemical engineers describe tools and methodologies developed for engineering biological systems at a wide range of levels, including molecular, pathway, network, whole cell, and multi-cell. They also explore practical applications of synthetic biology, a branch of genetic engineering that incorporates systems biology."--Reference and Research Book News, August 2013

“The proposed book is exclusively focused on synthetic biology. It brings together the thought leaders in this emerging field, giving expert accounts and their opinions of special topics in synthetic biology…. This might be the first dedicated, edited book for synthetic biology.”--Dr. Qing Lin, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA

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