Engineering bacterial transcription factors to sense human performance biomarkers

Project: Research project

Project Details


Airmen and Guardians work in high-stress environments and must make calculated, rational decisions and actions. The regulation of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, GABA, and dopamine, is crucial to human performance. As such, a field-deployable, Air Force-ready sensor to detect these important biomarkers will help Airmen make the best decisions in the field. To date, no such sensors exist, but novel methods in biotechnology are enabling the development of such sensors using bacterial transcription factors. Bacterial transcription factors bind small molecules, like neurotransmitters, and regulate the expression of genes. Transcription factors are emerging as top of the line small molecule sensors, because they can be evolved to respond to new small molecule ligands, optimized for sensitivity/signal, and engineered to regulate the expression of easily detectable proteins. In this proposal, we will: (i) use cutting edge cell-free technologies to develop biosensors for acetylcholine, GABA, and dopamine, (ii) optimize the biosensors response parameters for use in the field, and (iii)) fine-tune the biosensors by selecting optimal transcription factor/promoter pairs. The proposed research will enrich our basic knowledge of bacterial transcription factor biology and biochemistry, develop cutting-edge techniques to evolve/engineer transcription factors for new purposes, and lead to useful field-deployable biosensors for acetylcholine, GABA, and dopamine for use by the Air Force.
Effective start/end date9/30/213/31/23


  • U.S. Air Force Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (FA2386-21-1-4078)


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