Escherichia coli “Marionette” strains with 12 highly optimized small-molecule sensors

Adam J. Meyer, Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro, Emerson Glassey, Jing Zhang, Christopher A. Voigt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cellular processes are carried out by many genes, and their study and optimization requires multiple levers by which they can be independently controlled. The most common method is via a genetically encoded sensor that responds to a small molecule. However, these sensors are often suboptimal, exhibiting high background expression and low dynamic range. Further, using multiple sensors in one cell is limited by cross-talk and the taxing of cellular resources. Here, we have developed a directed evolution strategy to simultaneously select for lower background, high dynamic range, increased sensitivity, and low cross-talk. This is applied to generate a set of 12 high-performance sensors that exhibit >100-fold induction with low background and cross-reactivity. These are combined to build a single “sensor array” in the genomes of E. coli MG1655 (wild-type), DH10B (cloning), and BL21 (protein expression). These “Marionette” strains allow for the independent control of gene expression using 12 small-molecule inducers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-204
Number of pages9
JournalNature Chemical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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