Can BURP proteins unlock the antimicrobial secrets of plants?

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About This Project

Inspired by traditional medicine and the engineering paradigm, and armed by modern synthetic biology tools and methods, we aim to create a tool for the production of synthetic cyclic peptides and screen their antimicrobial properties to pave the way for further development of new medicinals.

An iGEM project from Latvia, Riga focusing on BURP domain protein expression in E. coli to produce cyclic peptides as antimicrobials.

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What is the context of this research?

Plant cyclic peptides are circularised short amino acid peptides that form a wide variety of natural compounds. They exhibit exceptional stability, cell membrane penetration, and diversifiability, showing great potential as alternatives to existing broad-spectrum and non-specific antibiotics.

In recent years, efforts have been made to characterise the mechanisms of synthesis of cyclic peptides. Notably, various plants have been shown to have BURP domain-containing proteins that can cleave the tail of the corresponding peptide and cyclize it, creating a biologically active cyclic peptide. This opens up new opportunities in research, because BURP domain proteins could be conjugated with various synthetic peptides to form novel medicinal substances with unique properties.

What is the significance of this project?

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing concern worldwide, leading to the emergence of incurable diseases. Right now it's 700,000 deaths per year, but a 2050 estimate stands at 10 million. New antibiotics take decades to create - while bacteria can develop resistance in 2-3 years. Therefore it is necessary to explore and develop alternatives to classical antibiotics, whose extensive use has contributed to this problem.

Cyclic peptides are known for their antimicrobial properties and can help combat the global surge of antimicrobial resistance. Furthermore, they can be a strong basis for developing novel antiviral and anti-cancer drugs. Their efficacy against plant pathogens proves them to be potent pesticides with applications in agriculture.

What are the goals of the project?

The main objective of our iGEM project is to demonstrate the utility of the BURP domain protein as a synthetic biology tool for generating therapeutic cyclic peptides.

Starting with recombinant protein expression in E. coli, we have moved on to protein purification using different fusion tags. We plan on performing cyclisation experiments on the purified BURP proteins both by changing the core peptide sequences already connected to the BURP domain and adding separate linear peptides as a cyclisation substrate. The peptides produced during our project will be tested in mass spectrometry and on various plant and human pathogenic fungi and bacteria.

We hope that our project can serve as a foundational advance for the development of cyclic peptides tailored for different purposes.


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iGEM competition requires the team to carry out all fundraising for a successful synthetic biology project. As of today, we have raised 27 500 EUR for our project, from which 25 % goes to laboratory research, 20 % goes to our marketing and publicity events, including the development of an educational board game for high school students and 30 % accounts for all the registration fees for the conference and competition and the rest is for the trip to the iGEM Grand Jamboree conference taking place in Paris, France, November 2 to 5.

As of now, we require funding for laboratory expenses, including kits for DNA purification, PCR, protein purification, and expression in E. coli. Unfortunately, we are unable to cover conference expenses for two more team members. Therefore, if we could raise enough funds, it would provide a great opportunity for them to join the rest of the team, engage in necessary networking, and participate in the iGEM Grand Jamboree conference.

Endorsed by

Over the past months I have observed how this team direct their enthusiasm and develop skills for unlocking the BURP proteins. These proteins have potential benefits to provide novel bioactive compounds such as antimicrobials or insecticides. However, the greatest benefit is the students who have developed creativity, excellence, teamwork and dedication – abilities that are crucial for future scientific and entrepreneurial challenges further developing this and any subsequent projects.

Project Timeline

The iGEM Latvia-Riga project started in January 2023 with an ideation phase.

We started raising funds from April 2023, and began laboratory work in May 2023. We have successfully refined our experimental protocols to successfully purify the proteins produced in E. coli and performing antimicrobial susceptibility tests.

At the final stage, we are close to reaching the milestones listed here and competing in iGEM competition of 2023.

Sep 04, 2023

Project Launched

Sep 29, 2023

Scientists’ night 2023

Oct 01, 2023

Development of the second iteration of educational board game BIOTOPIA and test runs in high schools

Oct 08, 2023

Successful proof of concept and antimicrobial susceptibility tests in the laboratory

Nov 02, 2023

Participation in iGEM Grand Jamboree competition and conference

Meet the Team

Alise Anna Stīpniece-Jekimova
Alise Anna Stīpniece-Jekimova
B. sc., Scientific assistant
Agate Amantova
Agate Amantova
Undergraduate student
Ieva Adamovica
Ieva Adamovica
Master's student

Team Bio

We're a team of 15 biotech, business, IT and environmental engineering students from Latvia, you can see all Team members and their roles in our Team page.

Find out more about our project here.

Follow our progress on social media.

Alise Anna Stīpniece-Jekimova

Biotechnology and Bioengineering student in the University of Latvia, Scientific assistant in Riga Technical University.

iGEM Latvia-Riga Team lead.



Agate Amantova

Biotechnology and Bioengineering student in the University of Latvia.

iGEM Latvia-Riga Team lead.


Ieva Adamovica

Bioengineering student at the University of Tartu.

iGEM Latvia-Riga Head of Fundraising.


Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

Within the scope of the iGEM project our team has designed a board game “BIOTOPIA” for high school students to stimulate discussions, critical thinking, and to educate them about bioeconomy and biotechnology. See more here.

We will keep engaging in events aimed at educating the public about synthetic biology, such as the annual Scientists' Night. Furthermore, we will be organizing presentations at the "Young Biologists' School", specifically designed for high school students, with the intent of fostering curiosity and interest in science.

Project Backers

  • 10Backers
  • 6%Funded
  • $160Total Donations
  • $16.00Average Donation
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