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

    265 Scopus citations


    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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