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Nature methods

DNA sense-and-respond protein modules for mammalian cells.


PMID 26389572

Abstract

We generated synthetic protein components that can detect specific DNA sequences and subsequently trigger a desired intracellular response. These modular sensors exploit the programmability of zinc-finger DNA recognition to drive the intein-mediated splicing of an artificial trans-activator that signals to a genetic circuit containing a given reporter or response gene. We used the sensors to mediate sequence recognition-induced apoptosis as well as to detect and report a viral infection. This work establishes a synthetic biology framework for endowing mammalian cells with sentinel capabilities, which provides a programmable means to cull infected cells. It may also be used to identify positively transduced or transfected cells, isolate recipients of intentional genomic edits and increase the repertoire of inducible parts in synthetic biology.