With the outbreak of E. coli on romaine lettuce in the news this past year, our team decided to focus on disrupting biofilm formation on crops. Biofilms are protein matrices created by bacteria that protect the bacteria against removal as well as antibiotics. A previous WPI iGEM team (WPI iGEM 2015) found that antifreeze proteins have anti-biofilm properties. Of particular interest to us are proteins that are derived from plants people already consume, such as those found in carrots, due to being already considered safe for consumption.
We are intending on genetically modifying crops to produce these antifreeze proteins. For our tests, we will be making a gene gun (inspired by the Cambridge 2016 iGEM team) to transform samples of lettuce leaf. Then we will determine how this impacts biofilm formation and whether it is a viable solution to the problem of human pathogens on crops.