Cell-based biosensors hold the promise of on-demand signal integration, sensing, and response in complex and otherwise inaccessible environments. One key challenge is identifying specific DNA sequences in environmental samples that can be highly complex and chemically impure, making sequencing challenging to impossible. Here, I will discuss our work on the design and development of robust, modular, programmable and scalable living sensing systems. These novel biosensors consist of synthetic genetic circuits for enhanced uptake of environmental DNA and generate signal amplification in response to recognition of a specific pre-programmed DNA sequence. To read out circuit activity in real time, we developed new synthetic reporters of kinase activity, measurable at both the single-cell and population levels. I will also discuss the larger implications of this work for future design with synthetic signaling pathways for a wide range of applications in scientific discovery, medicine and the environment.
Host: Doris Wagner