In genetic engineering's version of the Pied Piper, chemists have programmed E. coli bacteria to move toward new chemical signals -- an advance they say could enable the production of bacteria with important uses in medicine, environmental clean-ups, and other fields.
"Equipping bacteria that can degrade pollutants, synthesize and release therapeutics, or transport loads with an ability to localize to a specific chemical signal would open new frontiers in bioremediation, drug delivery, and synthetic biology," Emory University's Justin P. Gallivan and Shana Topp state in the study.
Gallivan and Topp manipulated the natural chemotaxis ability of E. coli, which enables certain microbes to move toward chemicals in their environment. Researchers have envisioned reprogramming such organisms so that microbes capable of synthesizing an anti-cancer drug, for instance, can be used to medicate diseased cells while sparing healthy cells of side effects.
The researchers gave E. coli a "riboswitch," a segment of RNA that changes shape when bound to certain small molecules and then turns genes on or off. They believe that approach can be used to equip motile bacteria with "chemo-navigation" systems to move toward desired targets.
Article: "Guiding Bacteria with Small Molecules and RNA", Scheduled for publication in the June 6 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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