Synthetic biologists hack bacterial sensors

To discover the function of a totally new two-component system, Rice University synthetic biologists rewired the genetic circuitry in seven strains of bacteria and examined how each behaved when exposed to 117 individual chemicals. PIX/Rice University

RICE University synthetic biologists have hacked bacterial sensing with a plug-and-play system that could be used to mix-and-match tens of thousands of sensory inputs and genetic outputs. The technology has wide-ranging implications for medical diagnostics, the study of deadly pathogens, environmental monitoring and more. Rice bioengineer Jeff Tabor and colleagues conducted thousands of experiments to show they could systematically rewire two-component systems, the genetic circuits bacteria use to sense their surroundings and listen to their neighbors. Their work appears in a study published this recently in Nature Chemical Biology.

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