De novo engineering of a bacterial lifestyle program

Wentao Kong, Yuanchao Qian, Philip S. Stewart, Ting Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic biology has shown remarkable potential to program living microorganisms for applications. However, a notable discrepancy exists between the current engineering practice—which focuses predominantly on planktonic cells—and the ubiquitous observation of microbes in nature that constantly alternate their lifestyles on environmental variations. Here we present the de novo construction of a synthetic genetic program that regulates bacterial life cycle and enables phase-specific gene expression. The program is orthogonal, harnessing an engineered protein from 45 candidates as the biofilm matrix building block. It is also highly controllable, allowing directed biofilm assembly and decomposition as well as responsive autonomous planktonic-biofilm phase transition. Coupling to synthesis modules, it is further programmable for various functional realizations that conjugate phase-specific biomolecular production with lifestyle alteration. This work establishes a versatile platform for microbial engineering across physiological regimes, thereby shedding light on a promising path for gene circuit applications in complex contexts. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-497
Number of pages10
JournalNature chemical biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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