Team:University College London/Module 1


Revision as of 12:27, 23 July 2012 by Rwilkinson (Talk | contribs)

Module 1: Detection


The Detection Module is a means of allowing our bacteria to detect if plastic is in the immediate vicinity. It is necessary to do this to regulate the production of our adhesive – Curli (Module 2). Curlis are non specific in the surfaces they bind. Without linking Curli production in some way to the presence of plastic, there would be erroneous binding (to non-plastics), which would reduce the efficiency of our system.

As there is no fully characterised gene or sequence for a plastic receptor, we cannot transform our bacteria with a gene to detect plastic directly.

However, it is possible to detect plastic indirectly. Our Detection system relies on detecting a particular subgroup of organic molecules that harbour the tendency to adhere to plastic surfaces. These molecules are called Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs). As they adhere to the surface of plastic, they can be used as an indicator. Collision of our bacteria with a plastic fragment will bring it into contact with the adhered POPs, and trigger the apparatus for adhering to plastic.

The same property that binds POPs to plastic – hydrophobicity – also allows them to pass through the bacterial cell membrane. Within, our bacteria will be carrying a genetic circuit, which encodes genes for detecting and reacting to the presence of POPs. Detecting will be achieved by constitutively expressing the regulator NahR, transcriptionally activates synthesis of the curli operon through P(sal).

In the absence of a receptor for plastic itself this is the best possible way we have designed to detect plastic, and regulate the production of Curli.