Researchers have learned to activate genes with electricity

A team of researchers led by scientists from Imperial College London has developed a strong,

unidirectional, sensitive toredox promoter PsoxS, which can be used for electrochemical activation of gene expression. The scientists presented their work in the journal Science Advances.

Cell function is ensured bypromoters - sections of DNA that regulate gene activation and subsequent protein synthesis. In their work, the scientists created promoters that can be controlled by electrical signals.

If we want the cell to producecertain chemical at a certain time, we can't just change a setting on the computer - we have to add a chemical or change the lighting conditions. The tools we've built as part of this project will allow researchers to instead control gene expression and cell behavior with electrical signals without sacrificing performance.

Joshua Lawrence, study co-author

The researchers note that the promoters they have created not only trigger the expression of the desired genes “under tension”, but are also able to block certain mechanisms in the “off” state.

Image: Imperial College London

To test the technology, the researchers tookjellyfish "luminous" protein and used a new promoter and electrons to induce its expression in bacteria. The bacterial cells glowed only when the system was "on". In another configuration of the system, the researchers created bacteria that glowed when the system was "off" and stopped glowing when the system was "on."

Scientists will continue to work to create promoters,which will induce different subsequent factors so that simultaneous electrical signals can cause the expression of different genes independently of each other.

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