Paul Grant
(University of Cambridge)
Synthetic Spatial Patterning Using Two-Channel
Quorum-Sensing Signaling

The development of a multicellular organism can be thought of as a series of hierarchical patterning events, dividing groups of cells into nested domains that give rise to tissues, organs, and specialized cell types. By building gene regulatory circuits that are capable of patterning populations of microbes, we can investigate the minimal genetic architecture required for this most basic developmental process and build synthetic developmental systems that can be used as a platform for future engineering. By using a previously developed two-channel synthetic quorum-sensing-based signaling system we were able to build a genetic regulatory circuit in which cells sending and receiving either signal repress the ability to send and receive the other signal, resulting in bistability on the population level - that is, cells come to a collective decision about which signaling state they are in. This leads to the formation of spatial domains of gene expression both at the level of colonies, and in larger populations.