A Synthetic Multicellular Memory Device

ACS Synth Biol. 2016 Aug 19;5(8):862-73. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.5b00252. Epub 2016 Aug 8.


Changing environments pose a challenge to living organisms. Cells need to gather and process incoming information, adapting to changes in predictable ways. This requires in particular the presence of memory, which allows different internal states to be stored. Biological memory can be stored by switches that retain information on past and present events. Synthetic biologists have implemented a number of memory devices for biological applications, mostly in single cells. It has been shown that the use of multicellular consortia provides interesting advantages to implement biological circuits. Here we show how to build a synthetic biological memory switch using an eukaryotic consortium. We engineered yeast cells that can communicate and retain memory of changes in the extracellular environment. These cells were able to produce and secrete a pheromone and sense a different pheromone following NOT logic. When the two strains were cocultured, they behaved as a double-negative-feedback motif with memory. In addition, we showed that memory can be effectively changed by the use of external inputs. Further optimization of these modules and addition of other cells could lead to new multicellular circuits that exhibit memory over a broad range of biological inputs.

Keywords: biological computation; logic circuits; memory devices; multicellular consortia; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomimetic Materials*
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Memory / physiology
  • Pheromones / metabolism
  • Synthetic Biology / instrumentation*
  • Synthetic Biology / methods
  • Yeasts / metabolism
  • Yeasts / physiology


  • Pheromones