Team:Minnesota/Project/UV Absorption

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<h1>UV Absorption by Skin Microbes</h1><br>
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<h1>Synthesizing UV-Protective Compounds in Bacteria</h1><br>
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Between 2 and 3 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancers arise each year, making skin cancer the most prevalent form of cancer worldwide. With skin cancer such a prominent problem worldwide, we are looking into alternative methods to protect against UV radiation. Photosynthetic organisms create an array of compounds, called mycosporine like amino acids, which naturally protect them against UV radiation. The cyanobacterium, Anabaena variabilis, contains a cluster of four genes capable of producing two UV protective compounds, mycosporine-glycine and shinorine.  Utilizing BioBrick™ vector techniques, we intend to clone these genes out of A. variabilis and into Escherichia coli for characterization. After characterization and determination of the efficiency of the genes in E. coli, we will clone the shinorine gene cluster into Staphylococcus epidermidis. Successful introduction of this gene cluster and expression of UV-protective compounds could be useful as a one-time-application alternative to currently marketed sunscreens.  
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Our first idea was to engineer the production of the Micosprine-like Amino Acids (MAAs) in E. coli. These compounds confer UV protection in Anabaena variabilis and are currently used in sunscreen that protects against the entire UVA and UVB spectrum. To obtain these compounds for use in industry, the current method is direct extraction from A. variabilis. To develop an alternate way of producing these compounds, genes coding for enzymes in their production pathways were taken from A. variabilis and cloned into E. coli using BioBrickTM techniques. The result: E. coli that can produce UV protectant compounds, which has several implications. E. coli are cheap, easy to produce, grow quickly, are preferred for use in industry, and can be grown up in giant bioreactors. Therefore the speed and ease at which MAA-producing bacteria can be grown, as well as the amount that can be grown would drastically increase. Additionally, promoters and mechanisms of down-regulation in E. coli are well characterized, making modification and control of the pathway much simpler. These parts could easily be employed in future experiments where increased UV tolerance is desired (for example, in the characterization of a UV-sensitive promoter).  Alternatively, a skin-based, UV-protectant probiotic could eventually be developed if these parts are incorporated into a native, non-pathogenic skim bacterium chassis, such as Staphylococcus epidermidis. Imagine a “sunscreen” that grows naturally on your skin!
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Revision as of 01:43, 4 October 2012

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Synthesizing UV-Protective Compounds in Bacteria


      Our first idea was to engineer the production of the Micosprine-like Amino Acids (MAAs) in E. coli. These compounds confer UV protection in Anabaena variabilis and are currently used in sunscreen that protects against the entire UVA and UVB spectrum. To obtain these compounds for use in industry, the current method is direct extraction from A. variabilis. To develop an alternate way of producing these compounds, genes coding for enzymes in their production pathways were taken from A. variabilis and cloned into E. coli using BioBrickTM techniques. The result: E. coli that can produce UV protectant compounds, which has several implications. E. coli are cheap, easy to produce, grow quickly, are preferred for use in industry, and can be grown up in giant bioreactors. Therefore the speed and ease at which MAA-producing bacteria can be grown, as well as the amount that can be grown would drastically increase. Additionally, promoters and mechanisms of down-regulation in E. coli are well characterized, making modification and control of the pathway much simpler. These parts could easily be employed in future experiments where increased UV tolerance is desired (for example, in the characterization of a UV-sensitive promoter). Alternatively, a skin-based, UV-protectant probiotic could eventually be developed if these parts are incorporated into a native, non-pathogenic skim bacterium chassis, such as Staphylococcus epidermidis. Imagine a “sunscreen” that grows naturally on your skin! Click here to return to Projects page.