Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Designer biosensor can detect antibiotic production by microbes

04.10.2017

Researchers from North Carolina State University have engineered designer biosensors that can detect antibiotic molecules of interest. The biosensors are a first step toward creating antibiotic-producing "factories" within microbes such as E. coli.

Macrolides are a group of naturally occurring small molecules that can have antibiotic, antifungal or anticancer effects. The antibiotic erythromycin is one example - it is a macrolide produced by soil-dwelling bacteria.


This is MphR biosensor binding to its target DNA sequence.

Credit: Edward Kalkreuter

Researchers are interested in using these natural antibiotics and the microbes that produce them in order to develop new antibiotics; however, microbes that produce antibiotic macrolides only make small amounts of a limited variety of antibiotics.

"Our ultimate goal is to engineer microbes to make new versions of these antibiotics for our use, which will drastically reduce the amount of time and money necessary for new drug testing and development," says Gavin Williams, associate professor of bio-organic chemistry at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the research.

"In order to do that, we first need to be able to detect the antibiotic molecules of interest produced by the microbes."

Williams and his team used a naturally occurring molecular switch - a protein called MphR - as their biosensor. In E. coli, MphR can detect the presence of macrolide antibiotics being secreted by microbes that are attacking E. coli. When MphR senses the antibiotic, it turns on a resistance mechanism to negate the antibiotic's effects.

The researchers created a large library of MphR protein variants and screened them for the ability to switch on production of a fluorescent green protein when they were in the presence of a desired macrolide. They tested the variants against erythromycin, which MphR already recognizes, and found that some of the MphR variants improved their detection ability tenfold. They also successfully tested the variants against macrolides that were not closely related to erythromycin, such as tylosin.

"Essentially we have co-opted and evolved the MphR sensor system, increasing its sensitivity in recognizing the molecules that we're interested in," says Williams.

"We know that we can tailor this biosensor and that it will detect the molecules we're interested in, which will enable us to screen millions of different strains quickly. This is the first step toward high-throughput engineering of antibiotics, where we create vast libraries of genetically modified strains and variants of microbes in order to find the few strains and variants that produce the desired molecule in the desired yield."

The research appears in ACS Synthetic Biology, and was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grant GM104258) and the NC State Chancellor's Innovation Fund. Graduate student Yiwei Li, former graduate student Christian Kasey, former undergraduate student Mounir Zerrad, and T. Ashton Cropp, professor of chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, contributed to the work.

###

Note to editors: An abstract of the paper follows.

"Development of transcription factor-based designer macrolide biosensors for metabolic engineering and synthetic biology"

Authors: Christian Kasey, Mounir Zerrad, Yiwei Li, Gavin Williams, North Carolina State University; Ashton Cropp, Virginia Commonwealth University

Published: ACS Synthetic Biology

DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.7b00287

Abstract:

Macrolides are a large group of natural products that display broad and potent biological activities and are biosynthesized by type I polyketide synthases (PKSs) and associated enzymatic machinery. There is an urgent need to access macrolides and unnatural macrolide derivatives for drug discovery, drug manufacture, and probe development. Typically, efforts to engineer the biosynthesis of macrolides and macrolide analogues in various microbial hosts are hampered by the complexity of macrolide biosynthetic pathways and our limited ability to rationally reprogram type I PKSs and post-PKS machinery. High-throughput approaches based on synthetic biology and directed evolution could overcome this problem by testing the function of large libraries of variants. Yet, methods that can identify mutant enzymes, pathways, and strains that produce the desired macrolide target are not generally available. Here we show that the promiscuous macrolide sensing transcription factor MphR is a powerful platform for engineering variants with tailored properties. We identified variants that displayed improved sensitivity towards erythromycin, tailored the inducer specificity, and significantly improved sensitivity to macrolides that were very poor inducers of the wild-type MphR biosensor. Designer macrolide biosensors should find broad utility and enable applications related to high throughput synthetic biology and directed evolution of macrolide biosynthesis.

Media Contact

Tracey Peake
tracey_peake@ncsu.edu
919-515-6142

 @NCStateNews

http://www.ncsu.edu 

Tracey Peake | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>