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Developing a electrical-bio interface via a membrane potential activated enzyme

Primary Supervisor: Dr Munehiro Asally, School of Life Sciences

Secondary supervisor: Professor Nick Dale

PhD project title: Developing a electrical-bio interface via a membrane potential activated enzyme

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

General background

Across the cell membrane, there is an electrical potential, akin to a buttery. This electrical potential can be used as a means of information processing. Such an electrical signalling is known to take place in neurons and muscles. However, the recent studies have revealed that electrical signalling is much more common than previously assumed. We now know that bacteria, fungi, plants all use membrane potential dynamics as a means of signal processing. Understanding the basis of electrical signalling in non-neuronal cells represents an exciting opportunity to pursue the rules of life from an electrical perspective. It will lead to developing new technologies for controlling cells using electricity. Asally lab tackles this fascinating problem by using bacteria and culture cell lines as model systems. The main expertise of the lab includes optical microscopy, molecular biology, cell biophysics and image analysis. Dale lab provides their expertise of electrophysiology.

Project aim

This project will develop a new protein that allowed controlled coupling between electrical potential and biological output, more specifically enzymatic activities. The project is a continuation of the efforts by the Asally and Dale laboratories in the last several years. The potential application of such protein includes the electrical interfacing module for synthetic biology. It will enable synthetic-biology circuits to be precisely controlled by electricity.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Understanding the rule of life: Microbiology

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • Time-lapse microscopy
  • Quantitative image analysis
  • Molecular cloning (e.g. in silico plasmid design, PCR, Gibson assembly)
  • Patch clamping

Contact: Dr Munehiro Asally, University of Warwick