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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Genetically Engineer Yeast to Improve Understanding of How Cells Work

April 10, 2019

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, together with AstraZeneca, have used mathematical modelling and genome engineering to edit yeast cells to help scientists control not just what the cells sense but how they react to what they sense in a more desirable way.

Yeast senses its environment using G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs enable cells to sense chemical substances such as hormones, poisons, and drugs in their environment. They can also act as light, smell, and flavor receptors. The Cambridge team developed a mathematical model of the yeast cell with varied concentrations of different cell components and found the optimum levels for the most efficient signalling of each one. This information was then used by researchers at Imperial College London to genetically modify cells.

Dr. William Shaw, a researcher at Imperial College London said the new information enabled them to understand exactly how to genetically engineer a cell so it senses something in a way that can be controlled. Through the computational findings, the team created a highly-modified strain of yeast with all the non-essential interactions within the GPCR signalling pathway removed. This allowed them to predictably alter the way cells responded to their environment.

For more details, read the news release from the University of Cambridge.