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Synthetic biology

Engineering Escherichia coli to see light

Nature volume 438, pages 441442 (24 November 2005) | Download Citation

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Abstract

We have designed a bacterial system that is switched between different states by red light. The system consists of a synthetic sensor kinase that allows a lawn of bacteria to function as a biological film, such that the projection of a pattern of light on to the bacteria produces a high-definition (about 100 megapixels per square inch), two-dimensional chemical image. This spatial control of bacterial gene expression could be used to ‘print’ complex biological materials, for example, and to investigate signalling pathways through precise spatial and temporal control of their phosphorylation steps.

These smart bacteria ‘photograph’ a light pattern as a high-definition chemical image.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. *Biophysics Program, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA

    • Anselm Levskaya
    •  & Christopher A. Voigt
  2. †Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology and Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, Austin, Texas 78712, USA

    • Aaron A. Chevalier
    • , Jeffrey J. Tabor
    • , Zachary Booth Simpson
    • , Laura A. Lavery
    • , Matthew Levy
    • , Eric A. Davidson
    • , Alexander Scouras
    • , Andrew D. Ellington
    •  & Edward M. Marcotte
  3. ‡Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712, USA

    • Andrew D. Ellington
    •  & Edward M. Marcotte
  4. §Department of Synthetic Biology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Christopher A. Voigt
  5. Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, California 94107, USA

    • Christopher A. Voigt

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher A. Voigt.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04405

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