Engineering customized cell sensing and response behaviors using synthetic notch receptors.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.
The Notch protein is one of the most mechanistically direct transmembrane receptors—the intracellular domain contains a transcriptional regulator that is released from the membrane when engagement of the cognate extracellular ligand induces intramembrane proteolysis. We find that chimeric forms of Notch, in which both the extracellular sensor module and the intracellular transcriptional module are replaced with heterologous protein domains, can serve as a general platform for generating novel cell-cell contact signaling pathways. Synthetic Notch (synNotch) pathways can drive user-defined functional responses in diverse mammalian cell types. Because individual synNotch pathways do not share common signaling intermediates, the pathways are functionally orthogonal. Thus, multiple synNotch receptors can be used in the same cell to achieve combinatorial integration of environmental cues, including Boolean response programs, multi-cellular signaling cascades, and self-organized cellular patterns. SynNotch receptors provide extraordinary flexibility in engineering cells with customized sensing/response behaviors to user-specified extracellular cues.