The iGEM team at University of Texas, Austin reached out to us this past summer as we had similar goals for wetlab experiments. UT Austin’s project aims to deliver PETase and MHETase enzymes to bacteria via a P1 bacteriophage to improve the natural degradation of plastics in the environment.
Figure 1: UT Austin Zoom Meeting
Through our first few meetings, we realized that we had similar goals for protein purification and decided to maintain contact with UT Austin to share updates with wetlab experiments as well as overall project progress.
Both our teams experienced difficulties when attempting PETase induction with IPTG. Through collaborative literature reviews and communication, we were able to discover that PETase could have been toxic to BL21 cells, which both our teams were using as the host. We then decided to reinitialize our experiments to utilize C41 cells as the hosts, instead of the BL21 cells.
Our teams additionally shared protocols with each other for both PETase induction and purification. Our continued contact allowed both our groups to successfully induce PETase with the C41 cells and receive the purified enzyme.
Because we were inspired by iGEM Toronto’s PETase work in 2019, we aspired to collaborate with them this year. The UIUC drylab team worked with Toronto for advice on how to analyze degradation rate and take measurements computationally, as well as for clarifications on their 2019 work and machine learning pipeline. We increased our collaboration this way and regularly communicated with them. As they were looking at molecular dynamics of their mutants this year, we also asked them to perform structure predictions for some of our mutants and met with them to discuss the process and our results.
PETase 2021 Slack channel
Team UIUC and Toronto invited 2021 iGEM teams who are working on PET degradation as well. We updated our progress on the projects and provided feedback to each other when needed. The Slack channel served as a central hub for communication to connect teams that are working on PET projects and encourage collaboration. We think that future Illinois teams can plan to utilize Slack as well for multi-team collaboration efforts.
We were invited to JulyGEM hosted by Team Calgary and actively participated. Judges from iGEM foundation gave us feedback in the early-stage of the projects which greatly benefited the team. We also participated in Q&A sessions of other iGEM teams to give feedback.
Figure 2: JulyGEM event