Cell-Free Protein Synthesis from Exonuclease-Deficient Cellular Extracts Utilizing Linear DNA Templates

J Vis Exp. 2022 Aug 9:(186). doi: 10.3791/64236.


Cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) has recently become very popular in the field of synthetic biology due to its numerous advantages. Using linear DNA templates for CFPS will further enable the technology to reach its full potential, decreasing the experimental time by eliminating the steps of cloning, transformation, and plasmid extraction. Linear DNA can be rapidly and easily amplified by PCR to obtain high concentrations of the template, avoiding potential in vivo expression toxicity. However, linear DNA templates are rapidly degraded by exonucleases that are naturally present in the cell extracts. There are several strategies that have been proposed to tackle this problem, such as adding nuclease inhibitors or chemical modification of linear DNA ends for protection. All these strategies cost extra time and resources and are yet to obtain near-plasmid levels of protein expression. A detailed protocol for an alternative strategy is presented here for using linear DNA templates for CFPS. By using cell extracts from exonuclease-deficient knockout cells, linear DNA templates remain intact without requiring any end-modifications. We present the preparation steps of cell lysate from Escherichia coli BL21 Rosetta2 ΔrecBCD strain by sonication lysis and buffer calibration for Mg-glutamate (Mg-glu) and K-glutamate (K-glu) specifically for linear DNA. This method is able to achieve protein expression levels comparable to that from plasmid DNA in E. coli CFPS.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Extracts
  • Cell-Free System
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli* / genetics
  • Escherichia coli* / metabolism
  • Exonucleases* / metabolism
  • Glutamates
  • Templates, Genetic


  • Cell Extracts
  • Glutamates
  • DNA
  • Exonucleases