Replication of DNA-encoded information and its conversion into functional proteins are universal properties of life. In an effort toward the construction of a synthetic minimal cell, we implement here the DNA replication machinery of the Φ29 virus in a cell-free gene expression system. Amplification of a linear DNA template by self-encoded, de novo synthesized Φ29 proteins is demonstrated. Complete information transfer is confirmed as the copied DNA can serve as a functional template for gene expression, which can be seen as an autocatalytic DNA replication cycle. These results show how the central dogma of molecular biology can be reconstituted and form a cycle in vitro. Finally, coupled DNA replication and gene expression is compartmentalized inside phospholipid vesicles providing the chassis for evolving functions in a prospective synthetic cell relying on the extant biology.
Researchers show that DNA supercoils are dynamic structures that can “hop” long distances, a phenomenon that could affect gene regulation.