Bacterial Live Wires




What they say about it

Previous studies performed by scientists and collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab) Molecular Foundry have made enormous headway toward cellular-electrode communication by using E. coli as a testbed for expressing an electron transfer pathway naturally occurring in a bacterial species called Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. The engineered E. coli was able to use the protein complex to reduce nanocrystalline iron oxide (Jensen, et al. (2010) PNAS.). Building off of this research, a group led by Caroline Ajo-Franklin, a staff scientist in the Biological Nanostructures Facility at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry studying synthetic biology, has now demonstrated that these engineered E. coli strains can generate measurable current at an anode. Source

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How they say it works

In S. oneidensis MR-1, the MtrCAB pathway is a protein complex that transports metabolic electrons across the cell membranes to metal oxides and minerals at the extracellular surface. S. oneidensis uses this electron conduit to essentially breathe solid metals in environmental conditions where oxygen is not available. When the genes encoding these complexes are expressed in E. coli, the cells can use them and reduce external metal sources. While the electron transport pathway was functional in E. coli in the previous study, the engineered strain showed reduced growth and markedly slower electron transfer rates than Shewanella. Closer investigation of the original engineered strain indicated that expressing large quantities of the MtrCAB proteins negatively impacted cell health and morphology. Armed with this data, Ajo-Franklin’s team set out to explore optimization of the system by fine-tuning the synthesis of the proteins and the growth of the cells. Source

Market Status

Ensuing Products
Organic Circuits and Hybrid Electrical Systems

Synbio Components