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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Oct 4;108(40):16510-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1109554108. Epub 2011 Sep 26.

InfoBiology by printed arrays of microorganism colonies for timed and on-demand release of messages.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Tufts University, 62 Talbot Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA.

Abstract

This paper presents a proof-of-principle method, called InfoBiology, to write and encode data using arrays of genetically engineered strains of Escherichia coli with fluorescent proteins (FPs) as phenotypic markers. In InfoBiology, we encode, send, and release information using living organisms as carriers of data. Genetically engineered systems offer exquisite control of both genotype and phenotype. Living systems also offer the possibility for timed release of information as phenotypic features can take hours or days to develop. We use growth media and chemically induced gene expression as cipher keys or "biociphers" to develop encoded messages. The messages, called Steganography by Printed Arrays of Microbes (SPAM), consist of a matrix of spots generated by seven strains of E. coli, with each strain expressing a different FP. The coding scheme for these arrays relies on strings of paired, septenary digits, where each pair represents an alphanumeric character. In addition, the photophysical properties of the FPs offer another method for ciphering messages. Unique combinations of excited and emitted wavelengths generate distinct fluorescent patterns from the Steganography by Printed Arrays of Microbes (SPAM). This paper shows a new form of steganography based on information from engineered living systems. The combination of bio- and "photociphers" along with controlled timed-release exemplify the capabilities of InfoBiology, which could enable biometrics, communication through compromised channels, easy-to-read barcoding of biological products, or provide a deterrent to counterfeiting.

PMID:
21949364
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3189035
Free PMC Article

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