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Next-generation RNA-based fluorescent biosensors enable anaerobic detection of cyclic di-GMP


Bacteria occupy a diverse set of environmental niches with differing oxygen availability. Anaerobic environments such as mammalian digestive tracts and industrial reactors harbor an abundance of both obligate and facultative anaerobes, many of which play significant roles in human health and biomanufacturing. Studying bacterial function under partial or fully anaerobic conditions, however, is challenging given the paucity of suitable live-cell imaging tools. Here, we introduce a series of RNA-based fluorescent biosensors that respond selectively to cyclic di-GMP, an intracellular bacterial second messenger that controls cellular motility and biofilm formation. We demonstrate the utility of these biosensors in vivo under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, and we show that biosensor expression does not interfere with the native motility phenotype. Together, our results attest to the effectiveness and versatility of RNA-based fluorescent biosensors, priming further development and application of these and other analogous sensors to study host-microbial and microbial-microbial interactions through small molecule signals.

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