The evolution of synthetic receptor systems

Janvie Manhas, Hailey I. Edelstein, Joshua N. Leonard*, Leonardo Morsut*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Receptors enable cells to detect, process and respond to information about their environments. Over the past two decades, synthetic biologists have repurposed physical parts and concepts from natural receptors to engineer synthetic receptors. These technologies implement customized sense-and-respond programs that link a cell’s interaction with extracellular and intracellular cues to user-defined responses. When combined with tools for information processing, these advances enable programming of sophisticated customized functions. In recent years, the library of synthetic receptors and their capabilities has substantially evolved—a term we employ here to mean systematic improvement and expansion. Here, we survey the existing mammalian synthetic biology toolkit of protein-based receptors and signal-processing components, highlighting efforts to evolve and integrate some of the foundational synthetic receptor systems. We then propose a generalized strategy for engineering and improving receptor systems to meet defined functional objectives called a ‘metric-enabled approach for synthetic receptor engineering’ (MEASRE). [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-255
Number of pages12
JournalNature Chemical Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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