Team:Groningen/Brainstorm/Buoyant Bacteria


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About 150 species of prokaryotes in aquatic habitats have been shown to contain gas vesicles. These gas vesicles provide cells with bouyancy. Gas vesicles are made exclusively of proteins and contain gas. When gas vesicles are present in a cell, the overall density of that cell is lowered and the cell becomes bouyant.

All genes that are necessary for gas vesicle formation in E.coli lie on a single gene cluster of about 8kb. It has previously been shown that transformation of E. coli with this gene cluster (which has it’s origin in Bacillus megaterium) yields a bouyant phenotype.

We want to utilize this bouyancy for an application like for example separation of specific molecules or specific cells.

Gas vesicles in iGEM

In iGEM 2008 Kyoto had the idea to lift the titanic from the bottom of the sea with the help of bouyant bacteria.


Walsby, A.E. 1994. Gas Vesicles. Microbiological reviews. Vol. 58, No. 1, p. 94-144.

Li, N., Cannon, M.C. 1998. Gas Vesicle Genes Identified in Bacillus megaterium and Functional Expression in Escherichia coli. Journal of Bacteriology. Vol. 180, No. 9, p. 2450–2458.