Because cells have the extraordinary ability to sense and respond to even subtle environmental changes by intricately regulating their gene expression patterns, their behaviors can be intentionally “tuned” by altering the state of their environments in a prescribed or rational manner. Rational control of both external and internal molecular stimuli provides a basis for many biotechnological applications including the expression of foreign protein products. This is done by coordinately controlling product synthesis while retaining the cell in a productive state. Quorum sensing (QS), a molecular signaling modality that mediates cell-cell communication, autonomously facilitates both inter- and intra-species gene regulation. This process can be rewired to enable autonomously actuated, but molecularly programmed, genetic control. Recently, even electrical signals, which have long been used to control the most sophisticated of man-made devices, are now employed to alter cell signaling processes enabling computer programmed behavior, particularly in cells suitably engineered to accommodate electrical signals. By minimally engineering these genetic circuits, new applications have emerged for the repurposing of Escherichia coli, from creating innovative sensor concepts to stimulating the emerging field of electrogenetics.
Part of the book: Gene Expression and Control