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A synthetic biology approach for magnetization of foreign organisms by genetic engineering and transplantation of bacterial magnetosome biosynthesis

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SYNTOMAGX (A synthetic biology approach for magnetization of foreign organisms by genetic engineering and transplantation of bacterial magnetosome biosynthesis)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

An immensely valuable asset to the field of synthetic biology would be a means to genetically endow magnetism to living organisms, which is still an unsolved challenge due to the lack of appropriate tools. In contrast, biomagnetism is innate to magnetotactic bacteria, mud-dwelling microbes which as geomagnetic sensors biomineralize iron nanocrystals with exceptional properties, the magnetosomes. However, transplantation of magnetosome biosynthesis has remained unachieved for many years, owing to its complexity and lack of knowledge of genetic determinants. In this project, we are following a systematic approach for endogenous magnetization of diverse organisms based on bacterial magnetosome biosynthesis. This might be exploited for bioproduction of tailored magnetic nanomaterials with novel and tunable properties. It could be further utilized to generate intracellular labels, tracers and actuators for magnetic manipulation and analysis of cells and organisms.
In the first part of the project, we analyzed the magnetosome biosynthesis pathway in the model organism Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense and other magnetotactic bacteria. We also started to engineer different prokaryotic hosts for the expression of magnetosome gene clusters from foreign bacteria and began to explore the expression of magnetosome biosynthetic genes in eukaryotic cells.
We identified novel candidate genes and regulators involved in magnetosome biosynthesis and auxiliary cellular processes. Further functionalities could be added to magnetosome particles by synthetic biology approaches. We showed that magnetosome genes from different organisms can be expressed in various bacterial chassis hosts. We expect that magnetosome biosynthesis can be further engineered in various expression hosts with respect to novel properties and additional functions.
Graphical Summary of Project