Hypoxia-Sensitive Circuits: Genetic Oxygen Sensors for Mammalian and Plant Systems
Low oxygen level, or hypoxic, environments are issues in both plant and mammalian systems. From water-logged soils to overpopulated regions of tumors, hypoxic regions provide a niche for novel technologies to be put into place to exploit this condition.
Plants in areas with improper levels of oxygen will have to switch from aerobic respiration to lactic and then alcohol fermentation in order to sustain their metabolic processes. Unfortunately this switch to alcohol fermentation will lead to the accumulation of byproducts that are detrimental to a plant’s life. So a synthetic biological circuit centering on the Adh promoter has been developed to indicate when these low oxygen levels (less than 5% oxygen) are present.
Hypoxia is also very prevalent in densely populated regions of tumors. It is believed that these areas may initiate hypoxia-driven angiogenesis, a process which aids greatly in tumor proliferation. Accordingly, an additional circuit has been created that will highlight the areas where hypoxic regions (less than 1% oxygen) have arisen during tumor development. The development and characterization of these novel circuits will help to lay down foundation for potential remedies to these consequences of hypoxia in both mammalian and plant systems.