Engineering Endosymbiotic Growth of E. coli in Mammalian Cells - Session Genome Engineering
9/5/23, 3:00 PM - 9/5/23, 3:25 PM (Europe/Zurich) (25 minutes)

Chantal Ernst

ETH Zürich

Doctorate at D-​BIOL

HCI F 438

Vladimir-​Prelog-Weg 1-5/10

8093 Zürich



Endosymbioses are cellular mergers in which one cell lives within another cell, and have led to major evolutionary transitions, most prominently to eukaryogenesis. Generation of synthetic endosymbioses aims to provide a defined starting point for studying fundamental processes in emerging endosymbiotic systems and potentially enable engineering of cells with novel properties. Here, we tested the potential of different bacteria for artificial endosymbiosis in mammalian cells. To this end, we adopted the Fluidic Force Microscopy technology to inject diverse bacteria directly into the cytosol of HeLa cells and examined the endosymbiont-host interactions by real time fluorescence microscopy. Among them, Escherichia coli grew exponentially within the cytoplasm, however, at a faster pace than its host cell. To slow down intracellular growth of E. coli, we introduced auxotrophies in E. coli and demonstrated that the intracellular growth rate can be reduced by limiting uptake of aromatic amino acids. In consequence, the survival of the endosymbiont-host pair was prolonged. The presented experimental framework enables studying endosymbiotic candidate systems at high temporal resolution and at the single cell level. Our work represents a starting point for engineering a stable, vertically inherited endosymbiosis.


[1] Gäbelein, C. G.; Reiter, M. A.; Ernst, C.; Giger, G. H.; Vorholt, J. A. Engineering endosymbiotic growth of E. coli in mammalian cells. ACS Synth Biol 2022. DOI:10.1021/acssynbio.2c00292.