Synthetic ecosystems based on airborne inter- and intrakingdom communication

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jun 19;104(25):10435-40. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0701382104. Epub 2007 Jun 5.


Intercellular communication within an organism, between populations, or across species and kingdoms forms the basis of many ecosystems in which organisms coexist through symbiotic, parasitic, or predator-prey relationships. Using multistep airborne communication and signal transduction, we present synthetic ecosystems within a mammalian cell population, in mice, or across species and kingdoms. Inter- and intrakingdom communication was enabled by using sender cells that produce volatile aldehydes, small vitamin-derived molecules, or antibiotics that diffuse, by gas or liquid phase, to receiver cells and induce the expression of specific target genes. Intercellular and cross-kingdom communication was shown to enable quorum sensing between and among mammalian cells, bacteria, yeast, and plants, resulting in precise spatiotemporal control of IFN-beta production. Interconnection of bacterial, yeast, and mammalian cell signaling enabled the construction of multistep signal transduction and processing networks as well as the design of synthetic ecosystems that mimic fundamental coexistence patterns in nature, including symbiosis, parasitism, and oscillating predator-prey interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air*
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Aspergillus nidulans / genetics
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Communication*
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Ecosystem*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lepidium sativum / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Placenta / enzymology
  • Pregnancy
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Quorum Sensing*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transgenes


  • Culture Media
  • Ethanol
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase