BPN478: Synthetic Microbial Pattern Formation Modulated by a Chemical Micro-interface


We develop a technique for producing synthetic microbial patterns by means of direct activation and inactivation of gene expression in an initially homogenous population of cells using a microfluidic chemical interface system. A strain of E. coli was engineered such that the presence of the membrane diffusible molecule acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) activates the production of more AHL, thereby creating a positive feedback loop. Since the half-life of AHL decreases in high pH solutions, this feedback loop can be inhibited in a specific area by modulating the local pH using a microfluidic system. A series of microchannels beneath a permeable membrane were used to locally control the pH levels in a layer of the engineered E. coli strain. By combining a diffusible activator with a microfluidic inhibitor, we believe this type of system should be able to demonstrate controllable Turing pattern formation and contribute to the development of new classes of synthetic multi-cellular systems built from co-operating cell populations in a manner analogous to differentiation schemes in developmental biology.

Project end date: 08/11/09

Publication date: 
February 25, 2009
Publication type: 
BSAC Project Materials (Final/Archive)
PREPUBLICATION DATA - ©University of California 2009

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