EMMA: An Extensible Mammalian Modular Assembly Toolkit for the Rapid Design and Production of Diverse Expression Vectors

ACS Synth Biol. 2017 Jul 21;6(7):1380-1392. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.7b00016. Epub 2017 Apr 24.


Mammalian plasmid expression vectors are critical reagents underpinning many facets of research across biology, biomedical research, and the biotechnology industry. Traditional cloning methods often require laborious manual design and assembly of plasmids using tailored sequential cloning steps. This process can be protracted, complicated, expensive, and error-prone. New tools and strategies that facilitate the efficient design and production of bespoke vectors would help relieve a current bottleneck for researchers. To address this, we have developed an extensible mammalian modular assembly kit (EMMA). This enables rapid and efficient modular assembly of mammalian expression vectors in a one-tube, one-step golden-gate cloning reaction, using a standardized library of compatible genetic parts. The high modularity, flexibility, and extensibility of EMMA provide a simple method for the production of functionally diverse mammalian expression vectors. We demonstrate the value of this toolkit by constructing and validating a range of representative vectors, such as transient and stable expression vectors (transposon based vectors), targeting vectors, inducible systems, polycistronic expression cassettes, fusion proteins, and fluorescent reporters. The method also supports simple assembly combinatorial libraries and hierarchical assembly for production of larger multigenetic cargos. In summary, EMMA is compatible with automated production, and novel genetic parts can be easily incorporated, providing new opportunities for mammalian synthetic biology.

Keywords: DNA assembly; combinatorial assembly; mammalian expression vectors; mammalian synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Library
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Synthetic Biology / methods*