The Expanding Computational Toolbox for Engineering Microbial Phenotypes at the Genome Scale

Daniel Craig Zielinski, Arjun Patel, Bernhard O Palsson

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Microbial strains are being engineered for an increasingly diverse array of applications, from chemical production to human health. While traditional engineering disciplines are driven by predictive design tools, these tools have been difficult to build for biological design due to the complexity of biological systems and many unknowns of their quantitative behavior. However, due to many recent advances, the gap between design in biology and other engineering fields is closing. In this work, we discuss promising areas of development of computational tools for engineering microbial strains. We define five frontiers of active research: (1) Constraint-based modeling and metabolic network reconstruction, (2) Kinetics and thermodynamic modeling, (3) Protein structure analysis, (4) Genome sequence analysis, and (5) Regulatory network analysis. Experimental and machine learning drivers have enabled these methods to improve by leaps and bounds in both scope and accuracy. Modern strain design projects will require these tools to be comprehensively applied to the entire cell and efficiently integrated within a single workflow. We expect that these frontiers, enabled by the ongoing revolution of big data science, will drive forward more advanced and powerful strain engineering strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2050
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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