Recording temporal data onto DNA with minutes resolution

Namita J. Bhan, Jonathan Strutz, Joshua Glaser, Reza Kalhor, Edward Boyden, George Church, Konrad Paul Kording, Keith E.J. Tyo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recording biological signals can be difficult in three-dimensional matrices, such as tissue. We present a DNA polymerase-based strategy that records temporal biosignals locally onto DNA to be read out later, which could obviate the need to extract information from tissue on the fly. We use a template-independent DNA polymerase, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) that probabilistically adds dNTPs to single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) substrates without a template. We show that in vitro, the dNTP-incorporation preference of TdT changes with the presence of Co2+, Ca2+, Zn2+ and temperature. Extracting the signal profile over time is possible by examining the dNTP incorporation preference along the length of synthesized ssDNA strands like a molecular ticker tape. We call this TdT-based untemplated recording of temporal local environmental signals (TURTLES). We show that we can determine the time of Co2+ addition to within two minutes over a 60-minute period. Further, TURTLES has the capability to record multiple fluctuations. We can estimate the rise and fall of an input Co2+ pulse to within three minutes. TURTLES has at least 200-fold better temporal resolution than all previous DNA-based recording techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - May 12 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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