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DNA assembly is a key component to synthetic biology.

A large number of parts have been made by the synthetic biology community. Many can be found as part of the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. These modular genetic components are designed to be easy to acquire and assemble to facilitate the building of more complex biological devices. To learn more about the Registry and the biological parts known as BioBricks™, see the entry for the iGEM Registry.

The Registry of Standard Biological Parts is an attempt to create an annotated and characterized repository of biological parts. It is motivated in part because synthetic biologists rely on the ability to make testable biological units. This means that the ability to gather, manipulate, or even create genetic material is vital for "doing" synthetic biology. This page details how to create DNA from small (<60 nts) oligonucleotides to larger genes (~400 nts) to genome sized (~500 ,000 nts) biological units.


DNA Synthesis

Oligonucleotide Synthesis

Oligonucleotides are chemically synthesized from DNA phosphoramidite monomers. Briefly, activated phosphoramidite monomers are added in the 3' to 5' direction using a cyclical activation and blocking chemistry to obtain a DNA polymer linked by phosphodiester bonds.


Chemical synthesis is currently limited to oligonucleotides of about 200 nt in length.

Gene Synthesis

Gene synthesis, or artificial gene synthesis, refers to the process of creating a nucleic acid template for a gene in vitro, without the requirement of a preexisting DNA template. Soon after the elucidation of the genetic code and the description of the central dogma of molecular biology, there arose a need to synthesize genes de novo in order to study their biological function both in the test tube and in model organisms. Chemical synthesis of DNA has grown from an expensive and time-consuming process into a viable commercial industry capable of high-throughput manufacture of almost any scale of custom DNA molecules in almost any context. This allows species-specific gene optimization, creation of genes from rare or dangerous sources, and combinatorial assembly of any DNA sequence that can be chemically synthesized, even including non-traditional bases. The most advanced applications of gene synthesis have been applied to the recent creation of completely synthetic minimal genomes in prokaryotes.

Despite nearly four decades of progress in gene synthesis technologies, most DNA sequences used in modern molecular biology are assembled in part or in whole from naturally occurring templates. However this limits the scope and applications to previously existing genes and the results of large-scale genomic surveys of novel genes from nature. Modern gene synthesis relies heavily on advancements in chemical DNA oligonucleotide synthesis, with the primary challenges being scale, cost, fidelity and the eventual assembly of complete gene products.

A directory of commercial gene synthesis providers can be found at Genespace. The company biomatik is not included on this list.

History of Gene Synthesis

Gene synthesis predates the invention of restriction enzymes and molecular cloning techniques by several years. The first gene to be completely synthesized in vitro was a 77-nt alanine transfer RNA by the laboratory of Har Gobind Khorana in 1972 [1]. This was the result of nearly five years of work and resulted in a DNA template without promoter or transcriptional control sequences. The first peptide- and protein-producing synthetic genes were created in 1977 and 1979, respectively [2, 3]. Steady advancement has led to recent synthesis of complete gene clusters tens of thousands of nucleotides in length, and ultimately a bacterial genome approximately 1.2 million bases in length.

Cost Analysis


Molecular Cloning

Restriction Enzyme

list of BioBrick Foundation Standards

Polymerase Chain Reaction

TOPO TA cloning (invitrogen)
SOE (splice by overlap extension) pcr



j5 from Nathan Hillson

-In-Fusion (Clontech) poxvirus DNA polymerase with 3′–5′ exonuclease activity
-In-Fusion BioBrick Assembly
-cold fusion (SBI)

-golden gate
-MoClo [4]

-SLIC sequence and ligation independent cloning T4 DNA polymerase (exonuclease)
-Gibson T5 exonuclease, Phusion polymerase, Taq ligase
-CPEC circular polymerase extension cloning

-SLiCE (Seamless Ligation Cloning Extract) in vitro homologous recombination

-Fast Seamless Cloning (Dogene)
-CloneEZ kit (Genescript)
-lambda red


  • e coli
  • s. cerevisiae

Bacterial Mating


More cloning strategies found here


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  1. Error fetching PMID 21364738: [Weber2011]

  2. Error fetching PMID 21601682: [Hughes2011]
    Gene Synthesis Review

  3. Error fetching PMID 22126803: [Werner2012]

  4. Error fetching PMID 21750718: [SarrionPerdigones2011]

  5. Error fetching PMID 18985154: [Engler2008]

  6. Error fetching PMID 19649325: [Quan2009]

  7. Error fetching PMID 18218864: [Gibson2008]
  8. Error fetching PMID 19363495: [Gibson2009]
    T5 exonuclease recombination

  9. Error fetching PMID 17293868: [Li2007]

  10. Error fetching PMID 22328425: [Li2012]

  11. Error fetching PMID 20385581: [Sleight2010]
    In-Fusion biobrick

  12. Error fetching PMID 17907578: [Zhu2007]

  13. Error fetching PMID 16289702: [Benoit2006]

  14. Error fetching PMID 17389646: [GeuFlores2007]

  15. Error fetching PMID 19745056: [Gibson2009-2]
    oligonucleotide assembly

  16. Error fetching PMID 2357375: [Horton2009]

  17. Error fetching PMID 19111926: [Czar2009]

  18. Error fetching PMID 7590320: [Stemmer1995]

  19. Error fetching PMID 2235490: [Aslanidis1990]

  20. Error fetching PMID 7580902: [Aslanidis1994]

  21. Error fetching PMID 9321675: [Li1997]

  22. Error fetching PMID 10446259: [Angrand1999]
    lambda Red recombinase

  23. Error fetching PMID 11076863: [Hartley2000]
    Gateway lambda Int

  24. Error fetching PMID 17702758: [Khalil2007]
    Gateway lambda Cre

  25. Error fetching PMID 8552668: [Larionov1996]
    Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) cloning

  26. j5 DNA Assembly Design Automation Software doi: 10.1021/sb2000116


  27. Error fetching PMID 20488990: [Gibson2010]
    genome replacement

  28. Error fetching PMID 15731760: [Li2005]
    MAGIC, bacterial mating approach

  29. Error fetching PMID 22241772: [Zhang2012]

All Medline abstracts: PubMed HubMed
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