Stressed-out by too much work. The cellular response to synthetic biology.

View all posters

Francesca Ceroni, Stan and Ellis

Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Bacterial cells have been used for decades for the production of industrially and therapeutically useful molecules. Synthetic biology takes this a step further, where complex genetic devices confer new functions to cells and do this via the production of many different proteins and metabolites. The running of such heterologous systems is known to cause a burden to bacterial host cells who have to share their resources between their own growth and maintenance and the production of molecules they usually don`t synthesise. The cellular response to this burden is complex cell-wide form of stress and can lead to variations in global transcript and protein production that can affect the desired robust behaviour of synthetic devices. Recently, researchers have started to characterize the stress response of bacterial cells to heterologous gene expression. However, an in-depth characterization of how bacteria cope with diverse synthetic genetic circuits is still lacking. Here, we present the characterization of E. coli cells as they respond to the burden caused by a panel of different synthetic biology devices chosen from literature. By examining the causes of burden and the outcomes for the host cells in these cases, we can understand how better to design future synthetic systems for long-term use and plan strategies for self-optimised expression.