Recent examples of new genetic circuits that enable cells to acquire biosynthetic capabilities, such as specific pathogen killing, present an attractive therapeutic application of synthetic biology. A team of researchers in Singapore has developed a technique for bioengineering a bacterium to seek out and kill targeted pathogens.
They demonstrate a novel genetic circuit that reprograms Escherichia coli to specifically recognize, migrate toward, and eradicate both dispersed and biofilm-encased pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells. The reprogrammed E. coli degraded the mature biofilm matrix and killed the latent cells encapsulated within by expressing and secreting the antimicrobial peptide microcin S and the nuclease DNaseI upon the detection of quorum sensing molecules naturally secreted by P. aeruginosa. Furthermore, the reprogrammed E. coli exhibited directed motility toward the pathogen through regulated expression of CheZ in response to the quorum sensing molecules.
By integrating the pathogen-directed motility with the dual antimicrobial activity in E. coli, we achieved signifincantly improved killing activity against planktonic and mature biofilm cells due to target localization, thus creating an active pathogen seeking killer E. coli.