To date, scientists have only been able to introduce and successfully regulate one or two genes at a time into cells, according to Kevin Clancy, Ph.D., an R&D scientist at Life Technologies and co-author on the study, which presents researchers with the ability to build circuits of between 10 and 20 genes and to have multiple regulators on each gene. Clancy describes the scenario of cells in a large bioreactor in which conditions are not uniform throughout the culture. Temperature and oxygen levels, for example, will vary and programming cells with sensors that automatically detect and adapt gene expression to environmental conditions would allow a bioproduction facility to optimize cell growth and therefore yields.
The study, titled "Genomic Mining of Prokaryotic Repressors for Orthogonal Logic Gates," is available in the current issue of Nature Chemical Biology. Co-authors include Todd Peterson, Ph.D., formerly of Life Technologies Corporation, and Brynne C. Stanton, Ph.D., Alec A.K. Nielsen, Alvin Tamsli, Ph.D., and Christopher A. Voigt, Ph.D., all in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The work was conducted through a sponsored research project funded by Life Technologies. The paper presents a library of 73 transcription repressors from multiple prokaryotic sources and demonstrated to function in the model organism E. coli. Previous studies had identified activators and terminators free of cross-reactivity.