Engineered quorum sensing using pheromone-mediated cell-to-cell communication in saccharomyces cerevisiae

Thomas C. Williams, Lars K. Nielsen, Claudia E. Vickers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Population-density-dependent control of gene expression, or quorum sensing, is widespread in nature and is used to coordinate complex population-wide phenotypes through space and time. We have engineered quorum sensing in S. cerevisiae by rewiring the native pheromone communication system that is normally used by haploid cells to detect potential mating partners. In our system, populations consisting of only mating type "a" cells produce and respond to extracellular α-type pheromone by arresting growth and expressing GFP in a population-density-dependent manner. Positive feedback quorum sensing dynamics were tuned by varying α-pheromone production levels using different versions of the pheromone-responsive FUS1 promoter as well as different versions of pheromone genes (mfα1 or mfα2). In a second system, pheromone communication was rendered conditional upon the presence of aromatic amino acids in the growth medium by controlling α-pheromone expression with the aromatic amino acid responsive ARO9 promoter. In these circuits, pheromone communication and response could be fine-tuned according to aromatic amino acid type and concentration. The genetic control programs developed here are responsive to dynamic spatiotemporal and chemical cellular environments, resulting in up-regulation of gene expression. These programs could be used to control biochemical pathways for the production of fuels and chemicals that are toxic or place a heavy metabolic burden on cell growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-149
Number of pages14
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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