Olivia Ho-Shing

Davidson College, Davidson, NC, United States

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Publications (4)13.25 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: We investigated frameshift suppressor tRNAs previously reported to use five-base anticodon-codon interactions in order to provide a collection of frameshift suppressor tRNAs to the synthetic biology community and to develop modular frameshift suppressor logic devices for use in synthetic biology applications. Results and Discussion: We adapted eleven previously described frameshift suppressor tRNAs to the BioBrick cloning format, and built three genetic logic circuits to detect frameshift suppression. The three circuits employed three different mechanisms: direct frameshift suppression of reporter gene mutations, frameshift suppression leading to positive feedback via quorum sensing, and enzymatic amplification of frameshift suppression signals. In the course of testing frameshift suppressor logic, we uncovered unexpected behavior in the frameshift suppressor tRNAs. The results led us to posit a four-base binding hypothesis for the frameshift suppressor tRNA interactions with mRNA as an alternative to the published five-base binding model. Conclusion and Prospects: The published five-base anticodon/codon rule explained only 17 of the 58 frameshift suppression experiments we conducted. Our deduced four-base binding rule successfully explained 56 out of our 58 frameshift suppression results. In the process of applying biological knowledge about frameshift suppressor tRNAs to the engineering application of frameshift suppressor logic, we discovered new biological knowledge. This knowledge leads to a redesign of the original engineering application and encourages new ones. Our study reinforces the concept that synthetic biology is often a winding path from science to engineering and back again; scientific investigations spark engineering applications, the implementation of which suggests new scientific investigations.
    Interdisciplinary Bio Central 09/2012; 4(10):1-12.
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    ABSTRACT: Methionine abundance affects diverse cellular functions, including cell division, redox homeostasis, survival under starvation, and oxidative stress response. Regulation of the methionine biosynthetic pathway involves three DNA-binding proteins-Met31p, Met32p, and Cbf1p. We hypothesized that there exists a "division of labor" among these proteins that facilitates coordination of methionine biosynthesis with diverse biological processes. To explore combinatorial control in this regulatory circuit, we deleted CBF1, MET31, and MET32 individually and in combination in a strain lacking methionine synthase. We followed genome-wide gene expression as these strains were starved for methionine. Using a combination of bioinformatic methods, we found that these regulators control genes involved in biological processes downstream of sulfur assimilation; many of these processes had not previously been documented as methionine dependent. We also found that the different factors have overlapping but distinct functions. In particular, Met31p and Met32p are important in regulating methionine metabolism, whereas p functions as a "generalist" transcription factor that is not specific to methionine metabolism. In addition, Met31p and Met32p appear to regulate iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis through direct and indirect mechanisms and have distinguishable target specificities. Finally, CBF1 deletion sometimes has the opposite effect on gene expression from MET31 and MET32 deletion.
    Molecular biology of the cell 06/2012; 23(15):3008-24. · 5.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Synthetic biologists have adopted the engineering principle of standardization of parts and assembly in the construction of a variety of genetic circuits that program living cells to perform useful tasks. In this chapter, we describe the BioBrick standard as a widely used method. We present methods by which new BioBrick parts can be designed and produced, starting with existing clones, naturally occurring DNA, or de novo. We detail the procedures by which BioBrick parts can be assembled into construction intermediates and into biological devices. These protocols are based on our experience in conducting synthetic biology research with undergraduate students in the context of the iGEM competition.
    01/2012: pages 61-76;
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    ABSTRACT: A yeast strain lacking Met4p, the primary transcriptional regulator of the sulfur assimilation pathway, cannot synthesize methionine. This apparently simple auxotroph did not grow well in rich media containing excess methionine, forming small colonies on yeast extract/peptone/dextrose plates. Faster-growing large colonies were abundant when overnight cultures were plated, suggesting that spontaneous suppressors of the growth defect arise with high frequency. To identify the suppressor mutations, we used genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism and standard genetic analyses. The most common suppressors were loss-of-function mutations in OPI1, encoding a transcriptional repressor of phospholipid metabolism. Using a new system that allows rapid and specific degradation of Met4p, we could study the dynamic expression of all genes following loss of Met4p. Experiments using this system with and without Opi1p showed that Met4 activates and Opi1p represses genes that maintain levels of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), the substrate for most methyltransferase reactions. Cells lacking Met4p grow normally when either SAM is added to the media or one of the SAM synthetase genes is overexpressed. SAM is used as a methyl donor in three Opi1p-regulated reactions to create the abundant membrane phospholipid, phosphatidylcholine. Our results show that rapidly growing cells require significant methylation, likely for the biosynthesis of phospholipids.
    Molecular biology of the cell 09/2011; 22(21):4192-204. · 5.98 Impact Factor