Development of a clostridia-based cell-free system for prototyping genetic parts and metabolic pathways

Antje Krüger, Alexander P. Mueller, Grant A. Rybnicky, Nancy L. Engle, Zamin K. Yang, Timothy J. Tschaplinski, Sean D. Simpson, Michael Köpke, Michael C. Jewett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Gas fermentation by autotrophic bacteria, such as clostridia, offers a sustainable path to numerous bioproducts from a range of local, highly abundant, waste and low-cost feedstocks, such as industrial flue gases or syngas generated from biomass or municipal waste. Unfortunately, designing and engineering clostridia remains laborious and slow. The ability to prototype individual genetic part function, gene expression patterns, and biosynthetic pathway performance in vitro before implementing designs in cells could help address these bottlenecks by speeding up design. Unfortunately, a high-yielding cell-free gene expression (CFE) system from clostridia has yet to be developed. Here, we report the development and optimization of a high-yielding (236 ± 24 μg/mL) batch CFE platform from the industrially relevant anaerobe, Clostridium autoethanogenum. A key feature of the platform is that both circular and linear DNA templates can be applied directly to the CFE reaction to program protein synthesis. We demonstrate the ability to prototype gene expression, and quantitatively map aerobic cell-free metabolism in lysates from this system. We anticipate that the C. autoethanogenum CFE platform will not only expand the protein synthesis toolkit for synthetic biology, but also serve as a platform in expediting the screening and prototyping of gene regulatory elements in non-model, industrially relevant microbes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Cell-free gene expression
  • Cell-free metabolic engineering
  • Cell-free protein synthesis
  • Clostridia
  • Prototyping genetic parts
  • Synthetic Biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


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