Use of population-level cell-state switching for recording transient inducer pulses

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Victoria Hsiao, Yutaka Hori, Paul W.K. Rothemund, Richard M. Murray
Presented, 2016 Winter q-Bio (5 Nov 2015)

Single-cell bacterial sensors have numerous applications in human health monitoring, environmental chemical detection, and materials biosynthesis. Many previous efforts for synthetic bacteria strains seek to optimize homogenous single cell behavior. Rather than attempt to reduce noise in circuit behavior, we take advantage of heterogenous single cell responses to record sequences of chemical events within a population. Using an engineered E. coli strain with a 4-state temporal logic gate, we show, both in silico and in vivo, that stochastic digital switching within single cells results in an analog population fractionation that can be used to resolve inducer pulse duration within 30 minutes. Furthermore, these results are preserved in the genome and can be read out at a time that is much later than the time of the event.