Development of SimCells as a novel chassis for functional biosensors.
Rampley CPN., Davison PA., Qian P., Preston GM., Hunter CN., Thompson IP., Wu LJ., Huang WE.
This work serves as a proof-of-concept for bacterially derived SimCells (Simple Cells), which contain the cell machinery from bacteria and designed DNA (or potentially a simplified genome) to instruct the cell to carry out novel, specific tasks. SimCells represent a reprogrammable chassis without a native chromosome, which can host designed DNA to perform defined functions. In this paper, the use of Escherichia coli MC1000 ∆minD minicells as a non-reproducing chassis for SimCells was explored, as demonstrated by their ability to act as sensitive biosensors for small molecules. Highly purified minicells derived from E. coli strains containing gene circuits for biosensing were able to transduce the input signals from several small molecules (glucarate, acrylate and arabinose) into the production of green fluorescent protein (GFP). A mathematical model was developed to fit the experimental data for induction of gene expression in SimCells. The intracellular ATP level was shown to be important for SimCell function. A purification and storage protocol was developed to prepare SimCells which could retain their functions for an extended period of time. This study demonstrates that SimCells are able to perform as 'smart bioparticles' controlled by designed gene circuits.