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Cell populations synchronized through plant hormones

Synchronization is an attractive phenomenon found in nature. Complex systems, such as bird flocs, social and ecological networks, and biological timekeepers show coherent behavior across scales. Furthermore, synchronization is critical for our brain function, stability of social interactions, and even the survival of entire ecosystems because it ensures equilibrium in an often challenging environment.

Synchronizing gene expression in complex eukaryotic communities remains a very challenging task for an bioengineer. The PlantDynamics Lab led by Dr. Wabnik introduce a synthetic system inspired by bacteria response to antibiotics model that robustly converts auxin and salicylic acid rhythms into synchronized gene expression across yeast populations dictated by a dynamic lab-on-a-chip (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. A synthetic strategy for the robust synchronization of spatially distant yeast colonies in the dynamic microenvironment.


We hope that our strategy can be potentially applied to other eukaryotes such as animals or plants because it is compact and modular. Also, this work provides a mechanistic basis for de novo engineering synchronous dynamics in complex living communities, such as fungi microbiomes for various synthetic biology applications, including control of production in the industrial bioreactors and production and release of therapeutics and vaccines. Lastly, it opens opportunities for the strategic design of coherent behavior in plant and animal tissues, thereby expanding the repertoire of patterning mechanisms explored through evolution.

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Original Paper:

Pérez-García, S., García-Navarrete, M., Ruiz-Sanchis, D., Prieto-Navarro, C., Avdovic, M., Pucciariello, O., Wabnik, K. 2021. Synchronization of gene expression across eukaryotic communities through chemical rhythms. Nature Communications 12, 4017. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-24325-z

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