For our project, we tested the effect of various antifreeze proteins on biofilm formation. Our aim is to apply effective antifreeze proteins to leafy crops to reduce the rate of foodborne illnesses caused by biofilm formation on leaves. We were inspired by the recent E. coli outbreak on romaine lettuce that infected 210 people, causing 5 deaths according to the CDC (CDC, 2018). A past WPI iGEM team had researched the expression of antifreeze proteins in E. coli strains. We continued their work, using their E. coli strains that expressed antifreeze protein to look into their antibiofilm action. We also tested curcumin’s properties against biofilm formation. The next step would include the application of purified antifreeze proteins to a leafy surface to model real world applications and creating a transgenic plant to produce the protein in order to protect itself. A low cost gene gun was created to induce antifreeze protein production within the plant leaves. The aim of this project was to help farmers avoid contamination due to E. coli growth on crops and reduce the amount of infections caused by bacterial foodborne illness among the general public.
E.coli (Escherichia coli). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018 Jun 28 [accessed 2018 Aug 2]. https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-04-18/index.html