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Information from single-cell bacterial biosensors: what is it good for?
Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Bacterial reporter cells (i.e. strains engineered to produce easily measurable signals in response to one or more chemical targets) can principally be used to quantify chemical signals and analytes, physicochemical conditions and gradients on a microscale (i.e. micrometer to submillimeter distances), when the reporter signal is determined in individual cells. This makes sense, as bacterial life essentially thrives in microheterogenic environments and single-cell reporter information can help us to understand the microphysiology of bacterial cells and its importance for macroscale processes like pollutant biodegradation, beneficial bacteria-eukaryote interactions, and infection. Recent findings, however, showed that clonal bacterial populations are essentially always physiologically, phenotypically and genotypically heterogeneous, thus emphasizing the need for sound statistical approaches for the interpretation of reporter response in individual bacterial cells. Serious attempts have been made to measure and interpret single-cell reporter gene expression and to understand variability in reporter expression among individuals in a population.
Bacteria/genetics, Bacteria/metabolism, Bacterial Proteins/genetics, Bacterial Proteins/metabolism, Biodegradation, Environmental, Biological Assay, Biosensing Techniques, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Genes, Reporter, Miniaturization
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