ACS Synth Biol 4(8) , 927-34 (Aug 21 2015)
Recent advances in synthetic biology have resulted in an increasing demand for the de novo synthesis of large-scale DNA constructs. Any process improvement that enables fast and cost-effective streamlining of digitized genetic information into fabricable DNA sequences holds great promise to study, mine, and engineer genomes. Here, we present Genome Calligrapher, a computer-aided design web tool intended for whole genome refactoring of bacterial chromosomes for de novo DNA synthesis. By applying a neutral recoding algorithm, Genome Calligrapher optimizes GC content and removes obstructive DNA features known to interfere with the synthesis of double-stranded DNA and the higher order assembly into large DNA constructs. Subsequent bioinformatics analysis revealed that synthesis constraints are prevalent among bacterial genomes. However, a low level of codon replacement is sufficient for refactoring bacterial genomes into easy-to-synthesize DNA sequences. To test the algorithm, 168 kb of synthetic DNA comprising approximately 20 percent of the synthetic essential genome of the cell-cycle bacterium Caulobacter crescentus was streamlined and then ordered from a commercial supplier of low-cost de novo DNA synthesis. The successful assembly into eight 20 kb segments indicates that Genome Calligrapher algorithm can be efficiently used to refactor difficult-to-synthesize DNA. Genome Calligrapher is broadly applicable to recode biosynthetic pathways, DNA sequences, and whole bacterial genomes, thus offering new opportunities to use synthetic biology tools to explore the functionality of microbial diversity. The Genome Calligrapher web tool can be accessed at https://christenlab.ethz.ch/GenomeCalligrapher .