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Synthetic Biology underpins advances in the bioeconomy

Biological systems - including the simplest cells - exhibit a broad range of functions to thrive in their environment. Research in the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology is focused on the possibility of engineering the underlying biochemical processes to solve many of the challenges facing society, from healthcare to sustainable energy. In particular, we model, analyse, design and build biological and biochemical systems in living cells and/or in cell extracts, both exploring and enhancing the engineering potential of biology. 

As part of our research we develop novel methods to accelerate the celebrated Design-Build-Test-Learn synthetic biology cycle. As such research in the Centre for Synthetic Biology highly multi- and interdisciplinary covering computational modelling and machine learning approaches; automated platform development and genetic circuit engineering ; multi-cellular and multi-organismal interactions, including gene drive and genome engineering; metabolic engineering; in vitro/cell-free synthetic biology; engineered phages and directed evolution; and biomimetics, biomaterials and biological engineering.



BibTex format

author = {Redhai, S and Pilgrim, C and Gaspar, P and van, Giesen L and Lopes, T and Riabinina, O and Grenier, T and Milona, A and Chanana, B and Swadling, J and Wang, Y-F and Dahalan, F and Yuan, M and Wilsch-Brauninger, M and Lin, W-H and Dennison, N and Capriotti, P and Lawniczak, M and Baines, R and Warnecke, T and Windbichler, N and Leulier, F and Bellono, N and Miguel-Aliaga, I},
doi = {10.1038/s41586-020-2111-5},
journal = {Nature},
pages = {263--268},
title = {An intestinal zinc sensor regulates food intake and developmental growth},
url = {},
volume = {580},
year = {2020}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - In cells, organs and whole organisms, nutrient sensing is key to maintaining homeostasis and adapting to a fluctuating environment1. In many animals, nutrient sensors are found within the enteroendocrine cells of the digestive system; however, less is known about nutrient sensing in their cellular siblings, the absorptive enterocytes1. Here we use a genetic screen in Drosophila melanogaster to identify Hodor, an ionotropic receptor in enterocytes that sustains larval development, particularly in nutrient-scarce conditions. Experiments in Xenopus oocytes and flies indicate that Hodor is a pH-sensitive, zinc-gated chloride channel that mediates a previously unrecognized dietary preference for zinc. Hodor controls systemic growth from a subset of enterocytes—interstitial cells—by promoting food intake and insulin/IGF signalling. Although Hodor sustains gut luminal acidity and restrains microbial loads, its effect on systemic growth results from the modulation of Tor signalling and lysosomal homeostasis within interstitial cells. Hodor-like genes are insect-specific, and may represent targets for the control of disease vectors. Indeed, CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing revealed that the single hodor orthologue in Anopheles gambiae is an essential gene. Our findings highlight the need to consider the instructive contributions of metals—and, more generally, micronutrients—to energy homeostasis.
AU - Redhai,S
AU - Pilgrim,C
AU - Gaspar,P
AU - van,Giesen L
AU - Lopes,T
AU - Riabinina,O
AU - Grenier,T
AU - Milona,A
AU - Chanana,B
AU - Swadling,J
AU - Wang,Y-F
AU - Dahalan,F
AU - Yuan,M
AU - Wilsch-Brauninger,M
AU - Lin,W-H
AU - Dennison,N
AU - Capriotti,P
AU - Lawniczak,M
AU - Baines,R
AU - Warnecke,T
AU - Windbichler,N
AU - Leulier,F
AU - Bellono,N
AU - Miguel-Aliaga,I
DO - 10.1038/s41586-020-2111-5
EP - 268
PY - 2020///
SN - 0028-0836
SP - 263
TI - An intestinal zinc sensor regulates food intake and developmental growth
T2 - Nature
UR -
UR -
VL - 580
ER -