Controlling electrical activity with phytohormones


Cells convert electrical signals into chemical outputs to facilitate the active transport of information across larger distances. This electrical-to-chemical conversion requires a tightly regulated expression of ion channels. Alterations of ion channel expression provide landmarks of numerous pathological diseases, such as cardiac arrhythmia, epilepsy, or cancer.

@PlantDynamics lab led by Dr. Wabnik with FPI doctoral student Merisa Avdovic engineered yeast S. cerevisiae to read and convert chemical concentrations into a dynamic potassium channel expression. They used phytohormones auxin and aspirin(salicylate) to modulate plasma membrane potential (PMP) of cells on the macroscopic scale, by synchronizing electrical activity of large cell populations grown in the microfluidic devices.

This work provides a compact experimental model to control electrical activity of eukaryotic cells through gene expression, thus setting grounds for various cellular engineering, synthetic biology, and potential therapeutic applications.

Coordinated changes of PMP (cyan) observed in growing yeast colonies in a dynamically changing environment

Original Paper:

García-Navarrete, M., Avdovic, M., Pérez-Garcia, S., Ruiz Sanchis, D., Wabnik, K. 2022. Macroscopic control of cell electrophysiology through ion channel expression. eLife 11, e78075. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.78075