Synthetic cell-based sensors with programmed selectivity and sensitivity

Elvis Bernard, Baojun Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacteria live in an ever changing environment and, to adapt their physiology, they have to sense the changes. Our current understanding of the mechanisms and elements involved in the detection and processing of these environmental signals grant us access to an array of genetic components able to process such information. As engineers can use different electronic components to build a circuit, we can rewire the cellular components to create digital logic and analogue gene circuits that will program cell behaviour in a designed manner in response to a specific stimulus. Here we present the methods and protocols for designing and implementing synthetic cell-based biosensors that use engineered genetic logic and analogue amplifying circuits to significantly increase selectivity and sensitivity, for example, for heavy metal ions in an aqueous environment. The approach is modular and can be readily applied to improving the sensing limit and performance of a range of microbial cell-based sensors to meet their real world detection requirement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-363
Number of pages15
JournalMethods in Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2017


  • Cell-based biosensor
  • Heavy metals
  • Selectivity
  • Sensitivity
  • Synthetic gene circuit


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