Team:Edinburgh/Bacterial/Blue light sensor


Revision as of 17:05, 27 October 2010 by JRWK (Talk | contribs)

Overview: The blue light sensor

The blue-light sensor, which is composed of the LovTAP hybrid protein designed by Strickland et al. (2008) and made available by Professor Sosnick, was BioBricked by EPF-Lausanne in iGEM 2009. It is based on a α-helical domain linker between the Lov2 domain (the photoactive protein) and the E. coli trp repressor, which acts as a conduit for allosteric signals. The effective response of the sensor is at a wavelength of 470nm (as documented by the aforementioned Lausanne iGEM team).

The blue-light sensor (LovTAP) consists of five parts:

  1. Photoreceptor1 (the shared helix between the Lov domain and the TrpR domain)
    • Dark blue when contacting the Lov domain (dark state).
    • Red when contacting the TrpR domain (light state).
  2. Photoreceptor2 (falvin monoucleotide-FMN cofactor)
  3. Lov domain-orange (photoactive protein)
  4. TrpR domain-grey (DNA regulator)
  5. Operator DNA

Figure 1: The mechanism of action of the LovTAP allosteric light sensor.

Image: Strickland et al. (2008)

Figure 1 above shows the whole process regarding how the light sensor works, from the dark state (A) to the light-activated state (B → C) and then returning to the stable state (D → A). In the dark state, the shared helix contacts the Lov2 domain, and the inactivated TrpR dissociates from the DNA; in the light state, the Lov2 domains absorb the blue light proton and form a covalent adduct between the FMN cofactor and a conserved cysteine residue, destroying the shared helix in the Lov domain and binding / populating an active formation of the TrpR domain. This in turn leads to LovTAP binding the DNA and repressing lambda-cI. However, this binding is not stable, and thus it will eventually return to the initial state.




Transformants are often growing the wrong colour. LovTAP controls the production of RFP in the cells. When LovTAP is inactive (i.e. in the dark), the cells should be producing RFP and hence should be growing red. When LovTAP is active (i.e. in white or blue light), the cells stop producing RFP and hence should produce white colonies. At the moment some cells in the light are still growing red, although some are definitely growing white, and vice versa in the dark. One suggestion was that the plasmids are unstable and dividing randomly, altering the intensity of the colour in some cells. Attempts to stabilise the colours of the colonies are ongoing (see the video in the gallery which demonstrates one of the innovative methods of providing proper culture conditions).


As stated above, our blue light sensor is based on a modified version of Lausanne 2009's LovTAP part (BBa_K191006) developed by our collaborators at Mexico UNAM-Genomics: BBa_K360121. We have coupled this with a simple reporter system (RFP) in order to perform characterisation tests.

BBa_K322999: LovTAP with RFP reporter system, based on Mexico UNAM-Genomics BBa_K360121


Figure 2: LovTAP activation.

Figure 3: LovTAP TrpR mutant activation.

Figure 2 and Figure 3.


Strickland, D., Moffat, K. & Sosnick, T. R. (2008). Light-activated DNA binding in a designed allosteric protein. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, 10709-10714.

Schüttrigkeit, T. A., Kompa, C. K., Salomon, M., Rüdiger, W. & Michel-Beyerle, M. E. (2003). Primary photophysics of the FMN binding LOV2 domain of the plant blue light receptor phototropin of Avena sativa. Chemical Physics 294, 501-508.

Wu, Y. I., D. Frey, et al. (2009). A genetically encoded photoactivatable Rac controls the motility of living cells. Nature Vol 461

EPF Lausanne 2009 team wiki,

Throughout this wiki there are words in bold that indicate a relevance to human aspects. It will become obvious that human aspects are a part of almost everything in iGEM.