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sRNAs in Artifical Gene Circuits and Bioremediation ApplicationsBacteria + Decoder, BW.jpg

Project Abstract

The 2010 Illinois iGEM Bioware team project has two main components: development of bacteria capable of bioremediation and refinement of a bacterial decoder developed by the 2009 Illinois iGEM team.

The bioremediation portion of our project will focus specifically on heavy metals. To achieve our goal of complete removal of harmful heavy metals, we plan to introduce genes into E.coli that will make the bacteria resistant to the metals being removed, and also genes that code for metal binding proteins that will be displayed on the bacteria’s outer membrane.

The bacterial decoder portion will be implemented using small RNAs and regulatory proteins to regulate the assembly of protein products unique to a certain set of inputs. This regulation under unique, user specified environmental circumstances is central to making the decoder a novel concept. The system implemented by the decoder will consist of different types of logic gates. These will be submitted to the Registry of Standard Biological Parts to be used by other synthetic biologists.

Our ultimate goal is to incorporate our bioremediation project and our bacterial decoder so that bacteria will be able to isolate specific metals based on their environmental conditions.

Project Details

2010 Illinois iGEM Bioware Team
Project Proposal: BioAlchemy

This year, the Illinois iGEM Bioware project will serve iGEM and Synthetic Biology in 4 facets: 1.) As the success of Synthetic Biology and iGEM is contingent upon the ability to build upon and reuse previous iGEM projects and parts, the Illinois iGEM team will be continuing the work of last year’s project: The Bacterial Decoder, while intending to incorporate additional parts from the Registry of Standard Parts into fine-tuning our final construct, 2.) As the doctrine of Synthetic Biology hopes to successfully create and modulate basic genetic regulation to perform human-defined functions, the Illinois iGEM team will continue to explore both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation as candidates for bi-stable genetic switches to be implemented into the Bacterial Decoder, 3.) In future hopes to create and modify biological systems to solve tomorrows problems today- in health, medicine, energy, environment, industry, etc., the Illinois iGEM team will use the metal-respiring and metal-detoxification systems in microbes to create a biological system that functions as a bioremediator which isolates and congregates toxic metals found in its environment so that they can be easily collected. 4.) As the capacity of Synthetic Biology and iGEM is hinged upon the support from the larger public community, the Illinois iGEM team is prepared to facilitate educational sessions, surveys, and ethics panel’s, to better equip the public community to make informed decisions on topics in Synthetic Biology.

Bacterial Decoder and the Registry of Standard Parts

Last year, the Illinois iGEM team worked to construct a decoder function in E. coli using genetic logic gates comprised of transcription factors and sRNAs. A decoder is a low-level computer architecture that produces a specific output or response depending on the combinations of 2n inputs. The team constructed some parts to this design, but failed to complete the final decoder construct in time for the 2009 iGEM Jamboree. Continuing members worked to construct the remaining parts for this decoder and collected data to verify the integrity of these parts. This year’s team intends to 1.) compile the parts to the decoder, 2.) optimize the system by integrating additional parts from the Standard Registry of Parts, and 3.) implement this function into an environmental application.

Synthetic Gene Networks in Synthetic Biology

The engineering of biological systems that process information, materials, and energy holds great promise for developing solutions to many global challenges. The construction of a standard genetic regulator that demonstrates strong bi-stability and facile manipulation poses a significant hurdle to synthetic biologists. The iGEM team intends to look into the construction of artificial ribonucleic protein (RNP) complexes using bacterial sRNA as a model. These regulators will/may be used to construct the necessary biological logic gates in the decoder schematic.

Cell Surface Engineering

Development of a standard part for the expression of proteins on a cell's surface will provide other scientists and engineers with a useful tool to pursue their own research and goals. One of the primary ways in which cells interact with their environment is through expression of proteins and carbohydrates on their outer membrane. The UIUC iGEM Team plans on utilizing this to allow a cell to capture free-floating toxic metal ions in solution. The cell will then enter stationary phase, where a system introduced by our team will cause the cells to float to the surface of the solution for easy collection.

Bioethics and Human Practices in Synthetic Biology

As the Synthetic Biology community grows, major issues including the ethics of genetic engineering, the creation and manipulation of “life”, will need to be addressed. While the horizon of Synthetic Biology promises answers to a myriad of global questions and problems, it does bring with it the possibility of great destruction and terror. The iGEM team will 1.) determine the current understanding of Synthetic Biology of different population pools through the distribution of surveys, 2.) facilitate educational sessions for children, students, and professionals alike, while 3.) engaging in academic seminars with other Synthetic Biologists, iGEM teams, and leaders, to evaluate a proper course for future direction in policy, regulation, and education.


  • Submitted biobricks can be viewed under the parts submitted to the registry page.
  • Due to time constraints, other data will be available during our presentation.