Synthetic biology challenges?


Registered Member
What obstacles could proper post translational modification pose for synthetic biology? For example, I'm think about glycosylation events and carbohydrates, which are often described as nature's third alphabet after nucleotides and amino acids. Glycosylation simply can't be manipulated like DNA can because it isn't template driven. There are examples known where you can induce aberrant glycosylation on certain proteins. The proteins are synthesized just fine by the cellular machinery and even still fold correctly while having aberrant glycosylation, and still seem to function correctly on the cellular level. Cells still seems to proliferate even with this aberrant glycosylation, but if you try to induce this same glycosylation at the organismal level, it is embrylogically lethal.

So back to my original question. What problems could this pose for synthetic biology? Yeah ok, let's say you can indeed program a switch into something like e. coli in order to get it to behave in a predictable way, what about post translational modifications, such as glycosylation, that can't be controlled because no template is known to exist yet? Carbohydrates are clearly important for proper protein function, how can one be sure that even if you can create an unnatural e.coli strain to produce X protein, that e. coli even has the proper machinery to post translationally modify protein properly?