Exploring spore biosensing as a platform for engineering new ligand specificities

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Jennifer Samson, Travis S Bayer

Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Bacterial spores have gained attention as attractive candidates for use in biotechnology in recent years, with notable progression in research that utilizes spores as vehicles for whole cell biosensors, surface display systems and vehicles for vaccines and therapeutic agents. Spores of Bacillus subtilis that exit from dormancy generate quick, unique responses characteristic of germination that can be easily detected. However, the exploitation of spore germination in biosensing has remained limited to the use of spores as vehicles for cellular functions or dependent on existing germination pathways and inputs. Here, we describe a novel ligand responsive spore detection system through engineering of new ‘germination’ receptors. This technology is able to rapidly detect peptide agonists, small molecules and protein interactions, and is amenable to high-throughput setups. Exploiting spores for biosensing in this way may serve as a useful platform for engineering new ligand specificities and detecting small molecule modulators of protein:protein interactions, with direct application in drug discovery and aiding of metabolic engineering design.