DNA-based information is a new field hoping to fill the gap in long-term data storage by using DNA as an information storage medium. Despite DNA’s potential, researchers face problems accurately rewriting digital information encoded in DNA sequences. Now researchers from the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (CIAC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences report they have created a dual-plasmid editing system that boosts DNA digital storage.

Findings from a new study were published in the journal Science Advances in a paper titled, “In vivo processing of digital information molecularly with targeted specificity and robust reliability.”

“DNA has attracted increasing interest as an appealing medium for information storage. However, target-specific rewriting of the digital data stored in intracellular DNA remains a grand challenge because the highly repetitive nature and uneven guanine-cytosine content render the encoded DNA sequences poorly compatible with endogenous ones,” wrote the researchers. “In this study, a dual-plasmid system based on gene editing tools was introduced into Escherichia coli to process information accurately.”

Generally, DNA data storage technology has two modes, i.e., the “in vitro hard disk mode” and the “in vivo CD mode.” The primary advantage of the in vivo mode is its low-cost, reliable replication of chromosomal DNA by cell replication. Due to this characteristic, it can be used for rapid and low-cost data copy dissemination. Since encoded DNA sequences for some information contain a large number of repeats and the appearance of homopolymers, however, such information can only be “written” and “read,” but cannot be accurately “rewritten.”

Professor Kai Liu from the department of chemistry, Tsinghua University, Professor Jingjing Li from the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (CIAC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and professor Dong Chen from Zhejiang University led a research team that recently developed a dual-plasmid editing system for accurately processing digital information in a microbial vector. The researchers established a dual-plasmid system in vivo using a coding algorithm and an information editing tool.

The researchers reported that the dual-plasmid system can serve as a universal platform for DNA-based information rewriting in vivo, which offers a new strategy for information processing and target-specific rewriting of large and complicated data on a molecular level.

“We believe this strategy can also be applied in a living host with a larger genome, such as yeast, which would further pave the way for practical applications regarding big data storage,” said Liu.

“An optical reporter was introduced as an advanced tool for presenting data processing at the molecular level,” explained the researchers. “Rewritten information was stored stably and amplified over hundreds of generations. Our work demonstrates a digital-to-biological information processing approach for highly efficient data storage, amplification, and rewriting, thus robustly promoting the application of DNA-based information technology.”