Quorum sensing networks have been identified in over one hundred bacterial species to date. A subset of these networks regulate group behaviors, such as bioluminescence, virulence, and biofilm formation, by sending and receiving small molecules called homoserine lactones (HSLs). Bioengineers have incorporated quorum sensing pathways into genetic circuits to connect logical operations. However, the development of higher-order genetic circuitry is inhibited by crosstalk, in which one quorum sensing network responds to HSLs produced by a different network. Here, we report the construction and characterization of a library of ten synthases including some that are expected to produce HSLs that are incompatible with the Lux pathway, and therefore show no crosstalk. We demonstrated their function in a common lab chassis, Escherichia coli BL21, and in two contexts, liquid and solid agar cultures, using decoupled Sender and Receiver pathways. We observed weak or strong stimulation of a Lux receiver by longer-chain or shorter-chain HSL-generating Senders, respectively. We also considered the under-investigated risk of unintentional release of incompletely deactivated HSLs in biological waste. We found that HSL-enriched media treated with bleach were still bioactive, while autoclaving deactivates LuxR induction. This work represents the most extensive comparison of quorum signaling synthases to date and greatly expands the bacterial signaling toolkit while recommending practices for disposal based on empirical, quantitative evidence.
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