The Sphereactor Project

Over millennia, eukaryotic cells have evolved sophisticated organelles, which enabled them to partition their cytoplasmic contents into functional sectors (e.g. the nucleus for storage of genetic material).Such compartmentalisation allows greater efficiency of cellular processes,where each organelle is allocated a set of specific metabolic tasks. Some prokaryotes have also developed a method of forming intracellular subdivisions called bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) by producing a set of proteins that ‘cage in’ a reaction pathway to make it more efficient. One such set of proteins is expressed from the propanediol utilisation (Pdu) operon in Salmonella enterica. Our team aims to design and construct a versatile synthetic microcompartment - The Sphereactor - using genes from the Salmonella pdu operon and an E. coli chassis. In conjunction with new biobricks, and those made by other iGEM groups in the past, we aim to test a universal targeting signal that can be used to pack the Sphereactor with enzymes. This will also help us understand the versatility of our microcompartment and to expand our BMC approach into a wide variety of new applications.

Gold Medal Microcompartment


In its simplest form, our Sphereactor is a protein shell, that with the addition of enzymes, can do work for us. Whether we want it to clean water of pollutants, degrade a toxic spill or create a new future for softdrinks, we believe our Sphereactor hold the key. And the brilliant thing is that through our experiments, we have shown it to survive outside of the cell, opening up a huge range of possibilities for the use of our sphereactor as a cell free system. This is a foundational advance in the field of synthetic biology, bypassing all concerns for the eventual release of genetically modified bacteria. We have also investigated the targeting of Ferritin to the Sphereactor with the aim of developing a recall system. This application of the sphereactor represents not only a new way to think about synthetic biology in the lab but is also simple way to avoid all issues of competition and horizontal gene transfer upon release.

Software for All

We are lucky enough to have two Applied Computing students on our team this year. They are focusing on creating software tools and mobile applications to assist the synthetic biologist.

One of tools we are developing right now is a multi-platform application that aims to reduce the need for looking up codon tables and hence speeding up the sequencing process.

As part of our human practices effort, we have created The Syn Bin in order to share and discuss lab accidents.

The main aim of our technology team is to provide efficient, usable and super-cool software for all.

The Sphereactor Team

This is the first iGem team to emerge from the University of Dundee. We are all very excited to be taking part in the competition.

We are a multi-disciplined team made up of students, advisors and supervisors from Applied Computing, Life Sciences and Mathematics. We feel having a mix of these skills will give us a competitive edge and a well-rounded skill set.

Sphereactor Sponsors

Thanks for the support our sponsors have given us. Without them the project would not have happened.

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