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Cellular communities exhibit both asocial and social behaviors through sensing and secreting the same extracellular molecule, eliciting population-wide behaviors such as quorum sensing, cell differentiation, and averaging of phenotype. Drawing inspiration from collective behaviors and cellular decision-making in biological systems, our team aims to engineer a synthetic model in order to understand the factors that play a role in reshaping community phenotypes. We have engineered novel sense-and-secrete circuits in yeast by repurposing the endogenous mating pathway and using fluorescent reporters to read out individual and community responses to a stimulus. We aspire to understand how intercellular signaling can shepherd noisy individual responses into robust community level behaviors. Particularly, we hope that by tuning parameters such as receptor level, secretion rate, signal degradation and spatial retention, we will be able to customize communication to model natural systems and elicit distinct community phenotypes.

If you have any questions about our project or want to collaborate, feel free to reach us at syssynbio@ucsf.edu