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Synthetic biology: engineering Escherichia coli to see light.

We have designed a bacterial system that is switched between different states by red light. The system consists of a synthetic sensor kinase that allows a lawn of bacteria to function as a biological film, such that the projection of a pattern of light on to the bacteria produces a high-definition (about 100 megapixels per square inch), two-dimensional chemical image. This spatial control of bacterial gene expression could be used to 'print' complex biological materials, for example, and to investigate signalling pathways through precise spatial and temporal control of their phosphorylation steps.

Pubmed ID: 16306980


  • Levskaya A
  • Chevalier AA
  • Tabor JJ
  • Simpson ZB
  • Lavery LA
  • Levy M
  • Davidson EA
  • Scouras A
  • Ellington AD
  • Marcotte EM
  • Voigt CA



Publication Data

November 24, 2005

Associated Grants


Mesh Terms

  • Agar
  • Biology
  • Color
  • Escherichia coli
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Lac Operon
  • Light
  • Photography
  • Photoreceptors, Microbial
  • Phycobilins
  • Phycocyanin
  • Phytochrome
  • Protein Kinases
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Tetrapyrroles