Biosensors & Bioelectronics, vol. 168, pp. 112523-112523
Microbes reprogrammed using advanced genetic circuits are envisaged as emerging living diagnostics for a wide range of diseases and play key roles in regulating gut microbiota to treat disease-associated symptoms in a non-invasive manner. Here, we developed a designer probiotic Escherichia coli that senses and responds to nitrate, a biomarker of gut inflammation. To this end, we first employed the NarX-NarL two-component regulatory system in E. coli to construct a nitrate-responsive genetic circuit. Next, we optimized the nitrate biosensor for the best performance using measures of sensitivity and specificity. We then introduced this genetic circuit into a probiotic E. coli Nissle 1917. We demonstrated that the designed biosensor can sense elevated nitrate levels during gut inflammation in mice with native gut microbiota. Moreover, using Boolean AND gate, we generated a genetically encoded biosensor for simultaneous sensing of the thiosulfate and nitrate biomarkers, thus increasing the tool's specificity for diagnosing gut inflammation. The nitrate-responsive genetic circuit will enable new approaches for non-invasive diagnostics of inflammation-associated diseases.