Streptomyces-based whole-cell biosensors for detecting diverse cell envelope-targeting antibiotics

Biosens Bioelectron. 2024 Apr 1:249:116004. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2024.116004. Epub 2024 Jan 5.


Cell envelope-targeting antibiotics are potent therapeutic agents against various bacterial infections. The emergence of multiple antibiotic-resistant strains underscores the significance of identifying potent antimicrobials specifically targeting the cell envelope. However, current drug screening approaches are tedious and lack sufficient specificity and sensitivity, warranting the development of more efficient methods. Genetic circuit-based whole-cell biosensors hold great promise for targeted drug discovery from natural products. Here, we performed comparative transcriptomic analysis of Streptomyces coelicolor M1146 exposed to diverse cell envelope-targeting antibiotics, aiming to identify regulatory elements involved in perceiving and responding to these compounds. Differential gene expression analysis revealed significant activation of VanS/R two-component system in response to the glycopeptide class of cell envelope-acting antibiotics. Therefore, we engineered a pair of VanS/R-based biosensors that exhibit functional complementarity and possess exceptional sensitivity and specificity for glycopeptides detection. Additionally, through promoter screening and characterization, we expanded the biosensor's detection range to include various cell envelope-acting antibiotics beyond glycopeptides. Our genetically engineered biosensor exhibits superior performance, including a dynamic range of up to 887-fold for detecting subtle antibiotic concentration changes in a rapid 2-h response time, enabling high-throughput screening of natural product libraries for antimicrobial agents targeting the bacterial cell envelope.

Keywords: Cell envelope; Comparative transcriptomic; Natural products; Streptomyces coelicolor; Two-component system; Whole-cell biosensors.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Glycopeptides / metabolism
  • Streptomyces* / genetics
  • Streptomyces* / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Glycopeptides
  • Transcription Factors