Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Synthetic biology

Engineering Escherichia coli to see light

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

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Light imaging by engineered Escherichia coli.

References

  1. Yeh, K. -C., Wu, S. -H., Murphy, J. T. & Lagarias, J. C. Science 277, 1505–1508 (1997).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Schmitz, O., Katayama, M., Williams, S. B., Kondo, T. & Golden, S. S. Science 289, 765–768 (2000).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Davis, S. J., Vener, A. V. & Vierstra, R. D. Science 286, 2517–2520 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Utsumi, R. et al. Science 245, 1246–1249 (1989).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Jin, T. & Inouye, M. J. Mol. Biol. 244, 477–481 (1994).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Kwon, O., Georgellis, D. & Lin, E. C. C. J. Biol. Chem. 278, 13192–13195 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Shimizu-Sato, S., Huq, E., Tepperman, J. M. & Quail, P. H. Nature Biotechnol. 20, 1041–1044 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Gambetta, G. A. & Lagarias, J. C. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 98, 10566–10571 (2001).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher A. Voigt.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Levskaya, A., Chevalier, A., Tabor, J. et al. Engineering Escherichia coli to see light. Nature 438, 441–442 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04405

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04405

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing