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  iGEM Berlin 2014: A remote control for E. coli

As the first iGEM team from Berlin, we decided to construct a simple BioBrick that enables synthetic biologists to remotely control the movement of E. coli. A seemingly simple and non-invasive mechanism for this remote control is the use of magnetic fields. By altering the iron homeostasis of E. coli, we want to increase the total iron level of the cytosol. By sequestering iron in a ferritin protein, iron crystals are formed and the cell is detoxified. We also worked with other metal binding proteins such as metallothioneins and phytochelatin synthases in order to create various metal nanoparticles as an alternative strategy. Furthermore, we searched for the optimal conditions which yielded the most efficient formation of magnetic nanoparticles in E. coli. Once we have discovered the best way to magnetize E. coli bacteria, we will build and characterize suitable BioBricks that can be used to remote control the cellular movement of E. coli.

The following animation visualizes the concept of using ferritin iron storage proteins as a magnetism mediating module.

This animation was developed by Florian Renner who is an science interested and very talented graphic designer based in Munich. We thank Florian for his amazing job he did voluntarily for iGEM Berlin helping us to overcome the limitations of our budget.