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Infographic: Gassy Genes

Soil scientists get bacteria to report on what their neighbors are up to.

ruth williams
Ruth Williams

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To detect microbial activity, E. coli bacteria are genetically engineered to produce the EFE protein constitutively and MHT in response to the bacterial communication molecule AHL. The presence of the E. coli in the soil, and the levels of AHL, in this example produced by Rhizobium bacteria, can then be detected non-disruptively using headspace gas chromatography—with the ratio of MHT-produced CH3Br to EFE- produced ethylene reflecting the concentration of AHL.
 

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