Cell-free synthetic biology: Engineering beyond the cell

Jessica G. Perez, Jessica C. Stark, Michael C. Jewett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) technologies have enabled inexpensive and rapid recombinant protein expression. Numerous highly active CFPS platforms are now available and have recently been used for synthetic biology applications. In this review, we focus on the ability of CFPS to expand our understanding of biological systems and its applications in the synthetic biology field. First, we outline a variety of CFPS platforms that provide alternative and complementary methods for expressing proteins from different organisms, compared with in vivo approaches. Next, we review the types of proteins, protein complexes, and protein modifications that have been achieved using CFPS systems. Finally, we introduce recent work on genetic networks in cell-free systems and the use of cell-free systems for rapid prototyping of in vivo networks. Given the flexibility of cell-free systems, CFPS holds promise to be a powerful tool for synthetic biology aswell as a protein production technology in years to come.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera023853
JournalCold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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