20.109(F07):Module 3

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20.109(F07): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Module 3

Instructors: Angela Belcher, Natalie Kuldell and Agi Stachowiak


“Invention” is a wonderful word, derived from words meaning, “scheme” and “a finding out.” Inventors draw on materials provided by the natural world, refining and combining them in insightful ways, to make something useful. In this experimental module we will invent materials by manipulating biological systems, namely the bacteriophage M13 and its bacterial host. In one experiment, we will revisit the host/phage interface and try to build a simpler one, infecting a strain bearing a minimal bacterial genome using a refactored phage genome. In a second experiment, we will use a very slightly modified phage, presenting four additional glutamic acids on the major coat protein p8, to build a nanowire that we’ll visualize on the transmission electron microscope. In a final experiment we will let the phage themselves do the building, watching them self-assemble on a polymer-surface, visualizing their structures with an atomic force microscope. Drawing on a rich stockroom of biological elements and a good but incomplete understanding of their behavior, we’ll hope to invent some novel and useful materials.

TEM of M13E4 after CoCl2/NaBH4 treatment, image by Natalie Kuldell, Anthony Garratt-Reed and KiTae Nam

Module 4 Day 1: growth of phage materials
Module 4 Day 2: testing redesigned genomes
Module 4 Day 3: building phage nanowires
Module 4 Day 4: Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)
Module 4 Day 5: Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)
Module 4 Day 6: student presentations

TA notes, mod 3