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Welcome to the 2010 UTDallas Team Wiki!

Project Description

The UT Dallas iGEM team wants to improve and expand on existing work with bacterial biosensors. Biosensors have wide-ranging environmental applications, which are at times curtailed by their cost. Bacterial biosensors therefore offer a far more economical alternative to traditional biosensor applications.
We are interested in producing an E. coli biosensor capable of detecting a variety of pollutants that are especially difficult to track and are found in industrialized as well as agrarian communities. To achieve this, we will employ cutting-edge synthetic biology to introduce new and modified BioBricks into E. coli that enable it to clearly report user-friendly outputs (color, fluorescence, etc) in response to these pollutants such as:
Paraffins (Alkanes), Naphthalenes (Cycloalkanes) and Aromatics:
Paraffins, naphthalenes and aromatics are the three largest fractions of petroleum by mass-percent, and are both persistent pollutants, a quality afforded by a stable molecular configuration. We will introduce BioBricks made from genes encoding alkane-hydroxylating (AH) and aromatics-degrading systems, which will convert the substances into a certain intermediates in a step-wise fashion. The intermediates will then induce an output response in low concentrations, thus mimicking the conditions of a potentially polluted environment. Alternatively, we will design promoters directly inducible by linear, branched, or cycloalkanes and aromatics to prevent induction by intermediates not derived from the alkanes or aromatics themselves. We will then characterize the ability of E. coli to serve as alkane/aromatics biosensor.
Nitrates are a common ingredient in fertilizers, whose use is wide-spread and often excessive and poorly regulated as a result of agricultural malpractice. Nutrient-rich runoff after rainstorms carries large amounts nitrates with it and thus eutrophicates water sources, which can facilitate the onset of freshwater algal blooms along with a host of other environmental problems. They are also present in such sources as sewage, which is often directly dumped into lakes, further damaging the environment. We will, like for the aforementioned contaminants, incorporate a visual output responsive to nitrates into E. coli and later characterize its ability to serve as a nitrate biosensor.
We foresee that our work will therefore find utility in many important ways—from maintaining pollutant-free water supplies and ecosystems all over the world to mitigating the effects of commercial oil spills such as the recent Deepwater Horizon spill.