Tunable reporter signal production in feedback-uncoupled arsenic bioreporters
Escherichia coli-based bioreporters for arsenic detection are typically based on the natural feedback loop that controls ars operon transcription. Feedback loops are known to show a wide range linear response to the detriment of the overall amplification of the incoming signal. While being a favourable feature in controlling arsenic detoxification for the cell, a feedback loop is not necessarily the most optimal for obtaining highest sensitivity and response in a designed cellular reporter for arsenic detection. Here we systematically explore the effects of uncoupling the topology of arsenic sensing circuitry on the developed reporter signal as a function of arsenite concentration input. A model was developed to describe relative ArsR and GFP levels in feedback and uncoupled circuitry, which was used to explore new ArsR-based synthetic circuits. The expression of arsR was then placed under the control of a series of constitutive promoters, which differed in promoter strength, and which could be further modulated by TetR repression. Expression of the reporter gene was maintained under the ArsRcontrolled Pars promoter. ArsR expression in the systems was measured by using ArsR-mCherry fusion proteins. We find that stronger constitutive ArsR production decreases arsenite-dependent EGFP output from Pars and vice versa. This leads to a tunable series of arsenite-dependent EGFP outputs in a variety of systematically characterized circuitries. The higher expression levels and sensitivities of the response curves in the uncoupled circuits may be useful for improving field-test assays using arsenic bioreporters.