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ACS Synth Biol. 2018 Sep 21;7(9):2270-2281. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.8b00271. Epub 2018 Aug 31.

Quorum Sensing Can Be Repurposed To Promote Information Transfer between Bacteria in the Mammalian Gut.

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Department of Systems Biology , Harvard Medical School , Boston , Massachusetts 02115 , United States.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology , Harvard University , Cambridge , Massachusetts 02138 , United States.
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering , Harvard University , Boston , Massachusetts 02115 , United States.
Department of Pathology , Brigham and Women's Hospital , Boston , Massachusetts 02115 , United States.


The gut microbiome is intricately involved with establishing and maintaining the health of the host. Engineering of gut microbes aims to add new functions and expand the scope of control over the gut microbiome. To create systems that can perform increasingly complex tasks in the gut, it is necessary to harness the ability of the bacteria to communicate in the gut environment. Interestingly, acyl-homoserine lactone (acyl-HSL)-mediated Gram-negative bacterial quorum sensing, a widely used mode of intercellular signaling system in nature, has not been identified in normal healthy mammalian gut. It remains unknown whether the gut bacteria that do not natively use quorum sensing can be engineered to successfully signal to other bacteria using acyl-HSLs in the gut environment. Here, we repurposed quorum sensing to create an information transfer system between native gut Escherichia coli and attenuated Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Specifically, we functionalized one species with inducible signal production and the other with signal detection and recording using genomically integrated circuits. The information transfer system demonstrated successful intra- and interspecies signaling in the murine gut. This study provides a basis for further understanding of interbacterial interactions in an otherwise hard-to-study environment as well as a basis for further investigation of the potential of acyl-HSLs as intercellular signaling molecules of engineered gut consortia.


engineering communication; gut microbiome; luxI/luxR; quorum sensing


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