Seminar: Bacterial two-component systems as sensors for synthetic biology applications

Bacteria use two-component signal transduction systems (TCSs) to sense changing environments and respond by activating gene expression. TCSs are an untapped treasure trove of biosensors for synthetic biology applications. We have discovered over 25,000 of these systems in bacterial genomes. Moreover, they can sense a stunning diversity of inputs from metal ions of particular oxidation states to specific metabolites, proteins, and wavelengths of light. However, due to several historical technological limitations, TCSs have been difficult to work with in the laboratory. As a result, the vast majority remain uncharacterized and intractable. We are developing a suite of technologies to overcome these limitations. Using a combination of synthetic biology methods, bioinformatic-based mutations, and protein engineering methods, we can eport TCSs into heterologous organisms, discover their inputs with high throughput screens, and tailor their performance features to match the specifications required for specific applications. We are using these approaches to develop new inhibitors of bacterial pathogenesis, and engineer bacteria that diagnose and treat disease and detect and report toxins in the environment among other applications.


photo of Dr. Jeff TaborJeff Tabor received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from UT-Austin in 2006, studying with Andy Ellington. He went on to study synthetic biology with Chris Voigt, then at UCSF, as a postdoc. He started his lab in the Bioengineering Department at Rice University in 2010. His lab focuses on engineering bacteria to sense and respond to information in the environment, with applications in medicine, environmental sensing, and basic science.

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