Development of novel metabolite-responsive transcription factors via transposon-mediated protein fusion

Andrew K.D. Younger, Peter Y. Su, Andrea J. Shepard, Shreya V. Udani, Thaddeus R. Cybulski, Keith E.J. Tyo, Joshua N. Leonard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Naturally evolved metabolite-responsive biosensors enable applications in metabolic engineering, ranging from screening large genetic libraries to dynamically regulating biosynthetic pathways. However, there are many metabolites for which a natural biosensor does not exist. To address this need, we developed a general method for converting metabolite-binding proteins into metabolite-responsive transcription factors-Biosensor Engineering by Random Domain Insertion (BERDI). This approach takes advantage of an in vitro transposon insertion reaction to generate all possible insertions of a DNA-binding domain into a metabolite-binding protein, followed by fluorescence activated cell sorting to isolate functional biosensors. To develop and evaluate the BERDI method, we generated a library of candidate biosensors in which a zinc finger DNA-binding domain was inserted into maltose binding protein, which served as a model well-studied metabolite-binding protein. Library diversity was characterized by several methods, a selection scheme was deployed, and ultimately several distinct and functional maltose-responsive transcriptional biosensors were identified. We hypothesize that the BERDI method comprises a generalizable strategy that may ultimately be applied to convert a wide range of metabolite-binding proteins into novel biosensors for applications in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalProtein Engineering, Design and Selection
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Biosensor
  • domain insertion
  • metabolic engineering
  • synthetic biology
  • transcription factor
  • transposon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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