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Cell-free synthesis systems can complete the transcription and translation process in vitro to produce complex proteins that are difficult to be expressed in traditional cell-based systems. Such systems also can be used for the assembly of efficient localized multienzyme cascades to synthesize products that are toxic to cells. Cell-free synthesis systems provide a simpler and faster engineering solution than living cells, allowing unprecedented design freedom. This paper reviews the latest progress on the application of cell-free synthesis systems in the field of enzymatic catalysis, including cell-free protein synthesis and cell-free metabolic engineering. In cell-free protein synthesis: complex proteins, toxic proteins, membrane proteins, and artificial proteins containing non-natural amino acids can be easily synthesized by directly controlling the reaction conditions in the cell-free system. In cell-free metabolic engineering, the synthesis of desired products can be made more specific and efficient by designing metabolic pathways and screening biocatalysts based on purified enzymes or crude extracts. Through the combination of cell-free synthesis systems and emerging technologies, such as: synthetic biology, microfluidic control, cofactor regeneration, and artificial scaffolds, we will be able to build increasingly complex biomolecule systems. In the next few years, these technologies are expected to mature and reach industrialization, providing innovative platforms for a wide range of biotechnological applications.


Jie Liu, Yongqi Hu, Wanyi Gu, Haiquan Lan, Zhidong Zhang, Ling Jiang, Xian Xu. Research progress on the application of cell-free synthesis systems for enzymatic processes. Critical reviews in biotechnology. 2023 Sep;43(6):938-955

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PMID: 35994247

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