Synchronizing gene expression in complex eukaryotic communities is challenging. Here we introduce a synthetic system inspired by bacteria response to antibiotics that robustly converts auxin and salicylic acid rhythms into synchronized gene expression across cell populations.
Synchronization is an attractive phenomenon found in nature. Complex systems, such as bird flocs, social and ecological networks, and biological timekeepers show coherent behavior across scales. Furthermore, synchronization is critical for our brain function, stability of social interactions, and even the survival of entire ecosystems because it ensures equilibrium in an often challenging environment.
Naturally, this beautiful phenomenon has long attracted bioengineers on the quest of designing smart synthetic biology strategies capable of coordinating whole living consortia for biotechnological, industrial, and therapeutic applications. In recent years, substantial efforts have been made to engineer synchronization within and across bacterial communities with examples of genetic LCD-like ‘biopixels’ and coordinated cell killing, among others. However, the engineering of synchronous dynamics in complex eukaryotic systems has proven very challenging.
In our article (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-24325-z), we leverage a bacterial strategy for antibiotic stress response to build minimal synthetic systems in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, capable of synchronizing individual eukaryotic cells in a dynamic environment.