Towards a Synthetic Chloroplast.
Agapakis CM, Niederholtmeyer H, Noche RR, Lieberman TD, Megason SG, et al. (2011)
PLoS ONE 6(4): e18877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018877
The evolution of eukaryotic cells is widely agreed to have proceeded through a series of endosymbiotic events between larger cells and proteobacteria or cyanobacteria, leading to the formation of mitochondria or chloroplasts, respectively. Engineered endosymbiotic relationships between different species of cells are a valuable tool for synthetic biology, where engineered pathways based on two species could take advantage of the unique abilities of each mutualistic partner.
We explored the possibility of using the photosynthetic bacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 as a platform for studying evolutionary dynamics and for designing two-species synthetic biological systems. We observed that the cyanobacteria were relatively harmless to eukaryotic host cells compared to Escherichia coli when injected into the embryos of zebrafish, Danio rerio, or taken up by mammalian macrophages. In addition, when engineered with invasin from Yersinia pestis and listeriolysin O from Listeria monocytogenes, S. elongatus was able to invade cultured mammalian cells and divide inside macrophages.
Our results show that it is possible to engineer photosynthetic bacteria to invade the cytoplasm of mammalian cells for further engineering and applications in synthetic biology. Engineered invasive but non-pathogenic or immunogenic photosynthetic bacteria have great potential as synthetic biological devices.