MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK. email@example.com
Synthetic biology aims to build new functions in living organisms. Recent work has addressed the creation of synthetic epigenetic switches in mammalian cells and synthetic intracellular communication. Fundamentally new, and potentially scaleable, modes of gene regulation have been created that enable expansion of the scope of synthetic circuits. Increasingly sophisticated models of gene regulation that include stochastic effects are beginning to predict the behaviour of small synthetic networks. Overall, these advances suggest that a combination of molecular engineering and systems engineering should allow the creation of living matter capable of performing many useful and novel functions.
Department of Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America.
Synthetic biology seeks to enable programmed control of cellular behavior though engineered biological systems. These systems typically consist of synthetic circuits that function inside, and interact with, complex host cells possessing pre-existing metabolic and regulatory networks. Nevertheless, while designing systems, a simple well-defined interface between the synthetic gene circuit and the host is frequently assumed. We describe the generation of robust but unexpected oscillations in the densities of bacterium Escherichia coli populations by simple synthetic suicide circuits containing quorum components and a lysis gene. Contrary to design expectations, oscillations required neither the quorum sensing genes (luxR and luxI) nor known regulatory elements in the P(luxI) promoter. Instead, oscillations were likely due to density-dependent plasmid amplification that established a population-level negative feedback. A mathematical model based on this mechanism captures the key characteristics of oscillations, and model predictions regarding perturbations to plasmid amplification were experimentally validated. Our results underscore the importance of plasmid copy number and potential impact of "hidden interactions" on the behavior of engineered gene circuits - a major challenge for standardizing biological parts. As synthetic biology grows as a discipline, increasing value may be derived from tools that enable the assessment of parts in their final context.
Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708 USA.
Synthetic biology encompasses the design of new biological parts and systems as well as the modulation of existing biological networks to generate novel functions. In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on the engineering of population-level behaviors using cell-cell communication. From the engineering perspective, cell-cell communication serves as a versatile regulatory module that enables coordination among cells in and between populations and facilitates the generation of reliable dynamics. In addition to exploring biological 'design principles' via the construction of increasingly complex dynamics, communication-based synthetic systems can be used as well-defined model systems to study ecological and social interactions such as competition, cooperation, and predation. Here we discuss the dynamic properties of cell-cell communication modules, how they can be engineered for synthetic circuit design, and applications of these systems.
Lab of Systems Biology, Department of Electrical Engineering, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND Synthetic biology is foreseen to have important applications in biotechnology and medicine, and is expected to contribute significantly to a better understanding of the functioning of complex biological systems. However, the development of synthetic gene networks is still difficult and most newly created gene networks are non-functioning due to intrinsic parameter uncertainties, external disturbances and functional variations of intra- and extra-cellular environments. The design method for a robust synthetic gene network that works properly in a host cell under these intrinsic parameter uncertainties and external disturbances is the most important topic in synthetic biology. RESULTS In this study, we propose a stochastic model that includes parameter fluctuations and external disturbances to mimic the dynamic behaviors of a synthetic gene network in the host cell. Then, based on this stochastic model, four design specifications are introduced to guarantee that a synthetic gene network can achieve its desired steady state behavior in spite of parameter fluctuations, external disturbances and functional variations in the host cell. We propose a systematic method to select a set of appropriate design parameters for a synthetic gene network that will satisfy these design specifications so that the intrinsic parameter fluctuations can be tolerated, the external disturbances can be efficiently filtered, and most importantly, the desired steady states can be achieved. Thus the synthetic gene network can work properly in a host cell under intrinsic parameter uncertainties, external disturbances and functional variations. Finally, a design procedure for the robust synthetic gene network is developed and a design example is given in silico to confirm the performance of the proposed method. CONCLUSION Based on four design specifications, a systematic design procedure is developed for designers to engineer a robust synthetic biology network that can achieve its desired steady state behavior under parameter fluctuations, external disturbances and functional variations in the host cell. Therefore, the proposed systematic design method has good potential for the robust synthetic gene network design.
Synthetic biology: exploring and exploiting genetic modularity through the design of novel biological networks.
Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Synthetic biology has been used to describe many biological endeavors over the past thirty years--from designing enzymes and in vitro systems, to manipulating existing metabolisms and gene expression, to creating entirely synthetic replicating life forms. What separates the current incarnation of synthetic biology from the recombinant DNA technology or metabolic engineering of the past is an emphasis on principles from engineering such as modularity, standardization, and rigorously predictive models. As such, synthetic biology represents a new paradigm for learning about and using biological molecules and data, with applications in basic science, biotechnology, and medicine. This review covers the canonical examples as well as some recent advances in synthetic biology in terms of what we know and what we can learn about the networks underlying biology, and how this endeavor may shape our understanding of living systems.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
A major flavor of synthetic biology is the creation of artificial gene circuits to perform user-defined tasks. One aspect of this area is to realize ever-increasingly more complicated circuit behavior. Such efforts have led to the identification and evaluation of design strategies that enable robust control of dynamics in single cells and in cell populations. On the other hand, there is increasing emphasis on using artificial systems programmed by simple circuits to explore fundamental biological questions of broad significance.
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 600 S. Mathews Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.
Orthogonal ribosomes (o-ribosomes), also known as specialized ribosomes, are able to selectively translate mRNA not recognized by host ribosomes. As a result, they are powerful tools for investigating translational regulation and probing ribosome structure. To date, efforts directed towards engineering o-ribosomes have involved random mutagenesis-based approaches. As an alternative, we present here a computational method for rationally designing o-ribosomes in bacteria. Working under the assumption that base-pair interactions between the 16S rRNA and mRNA serve as the primary mode for ribosome binding and translational initiation, the algorithm enumerates all possible extended recognition sequences for 16S rRNA and then chooses those candidates that:(i) have a similar binding strength to their target mRNA as the canonical, wild-type ribosome/mRNA pair;(ii) do not bind mRNA with the wild-type, canonical Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence and (iii) minimally interact with host mRNA irrespective of whether a recognizable SD sequence is present. In order to test the algorithm, we experimentally characterized a number of computationally designed o-ribosomes in Escherichia coli.
Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Campus de Cantoblanco, Madrid 28049, Spain.
Prokaryotic transcriptional networks possess a large number of regulatory modules that formally implement many of the logic gates that are typical of digital, Boolean circuits. Yet, natural regulatory elements appear most often compressed and exaggeratedly context-dependent for any reliable circuit engineering barely comparable to electronic counterparts. To overcome this impasse, we argue that designing new functions with biological parts requires (i) the recognition of logic gates not yet assigned but surely present in the meta-genome,(ii) the orthogonalization and desambiguation of natural regulatory modules and (iii) the development of ways to tackle the connectivity and the definition of boundaries between minimal biological components.
Peptide and protein building blocks for synthetic biology: from programming biomolecules to self-organized biomolecular systems.
School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, BS8 1TS, United Kingdom.
There are several approaches to creating synthetic-biological systems. Here, we describe a molecular-design approach. First, we lay out a possible synthetic-biology space, which we define with a plot of complexity of components versus divergence from nature. In this scheme, there are basic units, which range from natural amino acids to totally synthetic small molecules. These are linked together to form programmable tectons, for example, amphipathic alpha-helices. In turn, tectons can interact to give self-assembled units, which can combine and organize further to produce functional assemblies and systems. To illustrate one path through this vast landscape, we focus on protein engineering and design. We describe how, for certain protein-folding motifs, polypeptide chains can be instructed to fold. These folds can be combined to give structured complexes, and function can be incorporated through computational design. Finally, we describe how protein-based systems may be encapsulated to control and investigate their functions.
Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, QB3: California Institute for Quantitative Biological Research, The University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158-2330, USA.
Microorganisms use genetic circuits to integrate environmental information. We have constructed a synthetic AND gate in the bacterium Escherichia coli that integrates information from two promoters as inputs and activates a promoter output only when both input promoters are transcriptionally active. The integration occurs via an interaction between an mRNA and tRNA. The first promoter controls the transcription of a T7 RNA polymerase gene with two internal amber stop codons blocking translation. The second promoter controls the amber suppressor tRNA supD. When both components are transcribed, T7 RNA polymerase is synthesized and this in turn activates a T7 promoter. Because inputs and outputs are promoters, the design is modular; that is, it can be reconnected to integrate different input signals and the output can be used to drive different cellular responses. We demonstrate this modularity by wiring the gate to integrate natural promoters (responding to Mg(2+) and AI-1) and using it to implement a phenotypic output (invasion of mammalian cells). A mathematical model of the transfer function is derived and parameterized using experimental data.
Other papers by authors:
Nature. 2012 Oct 17;: 23075851
1] Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10065, USA  MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge CB2 0QH, UK .
Histone chaperones represent a structurally and functionally diverse family of histone-binding proteins that prevent promiscuous interactions of histones before their assembly into chromatin. DAXX is a metazoan histone chaperone specific to the evolutionarily conserved histone variant H3.3. Here we report the crystal structures of the DAXX histone-binding domain with a histone H3.3-H4 dimer, including mutants within DAXX and H3.3, together with in vitro and in vivo functional studies that elucidate the principles underlying H3.3 recognition specificity. Occupying 40% of the histone surface-accessible area, DAXX wraps around the H3.3-H4 dimer, with complex formation accompanied by structural transitions in the H3.3-H4 histone fold. DAXX uses an extended α-helical conformation to compete with major inter-histone, DNA and ASF1 interaction sites. Our structural studies identify recognition elements that read out H3.3-specific residues, and functional studies address the contributions of Gly 90 in H3.3 and Glu 225 in DAXX to chaperone-mediated H3.3 variant recognition specificity.
Amanda J Price, Adam J Fletcher, Torsten Schaller, Tom Elliott, Kyeongeun Lee, Vineet N Kewalramani, Jason W Chin, Greg J Towers, Leo C James
Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Division of Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The HIV-1 genome enters cells inside a shell comprised of capsid (CA) protein. Variation in CA sequence alters HIV-1 infectivity and escape from host restriction factors. However, apart from the Cyclophilin A-binding loop, CA has no known interfaces with which to interact with cellular cofactors. Here we describe a novel protein-protein interface in the N-terminal domain of HIV-1 CA, determined by X-ray crystallography, which mediates both viral restriction and host cofactor dependence. The interface is highly conserved across lentiviruses and is accessible in the context of a hexameric lattice. Mutation of the interface prevents binding to and restriction by CPSF6-358, a truncated cytosolic form of the RNA processing factor, cleavage and polyadenylation specific factor 6 (CPSF6). Furthermore, mutations that prevent CPSF6 binding also relieve dependence on nuclear entry cofactors TNPO3 and RanBP2. These results suggest that the HIV-1 capsid mediates direct host cofactor interactions to facilitate viral infection.
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Rd, Cambridge CB2 0QH, United Kingdom.
Nat Chem Biol. 2012 Aug 5;: 22864544
1] Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK..
Genetic code expansion for unnatural amino acid mutagenesis has, until recently, been limited to cell culture. We demonstrate the site-specific incorporation of unnatural amino acids into proteins in Drosophila melanogaster at different developmental stages, in specific tissues and in a subset of cells within a tissue. This approach provides a foundation for probing and controlling processes in this established metazoan model organism with a new level of molecular precision.
J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Jul 3;: 22758385
ABSTRACT: We report the first site-specific genetic encoding of photocaged tyrosine into proteins in mammalian cells. By photocaging Tyr701 of STAT1 we demonstrate that it is possible to photocontrol tyrosine phosphorylation and signal transduction in mammalian cells.
Genetic Encoding of bicyclononynes and trans-cyclooctenes for site-specific protein labeling in vitro and in live mammalian cells via rapid fluorogenic Diels-Alder reactions.
Kathrin Lang, Lloyd Davis, Stephen Wallace, Mohan Mahesh, Daniel J Cox, Melissa L Blackman, Joseph M Fox, Jason W Chin
Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QH, United Kingdom.
Rapid, site-specific labeling of proteins with diverse probes remains an outstanding challenge for chemical biologists. Enzyme-mediated labeling approaches may be rapid but use protein or peptide fusions that introduce perturbations into the protein under study and may limit the sites that can be labeled, while many "bioorthogonal" reactions for which a component can be genetically encoded are too slow to effect quantitative site-specific labeling of proteins on a time scale that is useful for studying many biological processes. We report a fluorogenic reaction between bicyclo[6.1.0]non-4-yn-9-ylmethanol (BCN) and tetrazines that is 3-7 orders of magnitude faster than many bioorthogonal reactions. Unlike the reactions of strained alkenes, including trans-cyclooctenes and norbornenes, with tetrazines, the BCN-tetrazine reaction gives a single product of defined stereochemistry. We have discovered aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase/tRNA pairs for the efficient site-specific incorporation of a BCN-containing amino acid, 1, and a trans-cyclooctene-containing amino acid 2 (which also reacts extremely rapidly with tetrazines) into proteins expressed in Escherichia coli and mammalian cells. We demonstrate the rapid fluorogenic labeling of proteins containing 1 and 2 in vitro, in E. coli , and in live mammalian cells. These approaches may be extended to site-specific protein labeling in animals, and we anticipate that they will have a broad impact on labeling and imaging studies.
Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK. email@example.com
Genetically encoded norbornene directs site-specific cellular protein labelling via a rapid bioorthogonal reaction.
Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QH, UK.
The site-specific incorporation of bioorthogonal groups via genetic code expansion provides a powerful general strategy for site-specifically labelling proteins with any probe. However, the slow reactivity of the bioorthogonal functional groups that can be encoded genetically limits the utility of this strategy. We demonstrate the genetic encoding of a norbornene amino acid using the pyrrolysyl tRNA synthetase/tRNA(CUA) pair in Escherichia coli and mammalian cells. We developed a series of tetrazine-based probes that exhibit 'turn-on' fluorescence on their rapid reaction with norbornenes. We demonstrate that the labelling of an encoded norbornene is specific with respect to the entire soluble E. coli proteome and thousands of times faster than established encodable bioorthogonal reactions. We show explicitly the advantages of this approach over state-of-the-art bioorthogonal reactions for protein labelling in vitro and on mammalian cells, and demonstrate the rapid bioorthogonal site-specific labelling of a protein on the mammalian cell surface.
Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QH, UK.
Designer amino acids, beyond the canonical 20 that are normally used by cells, can now be site-specifically encoded into proteins in cells and organisms. This is achieved using 'orthogonal' aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase-tRNA pairs that direct amino acid incorporation in response to an amber stop codon (UAG) placed in a gene of interest. Using this approach, it is now possible to study biology in vitro and in vivo with an increased level of molecular precision. This has allowed new biological insights into protein conformational changes, protein interactions, elementary processes in signal transduction and the role of post-translational modifications.
Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Rd, Cambridge, CB2 0QH UK.
The genetic code of cells is near-universally triplet, and since many ribosomal mutations are lethal, changing the cellular ribosome to read nontriplet codes is challenging. Herein we review work on the incorporation of unnatural amino acids into proteins in response to quadruplet codons, and the creation of an orthogonal translation system in the cell that uses an evolved orthogonal ribosome to efficiently direct the incorporation of unnatural amino acids in response to quadruplet codons. Using this system multiple distinct unnatural amino acids have been incorporated and used to genetically program emergent properties into recombinant proteins. Extension of approaches to incorporate multiple unnatural amino acids may allow the combinatorial biosynthesis of materials and therapeutics, and drive investigations into whether life with additional genetically encoded polymers can evolve to perform functions that natural biological systems cannot.
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PLoS One. 2012 ;7 (7):e39054 22848349
Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Synthetic biology is an area of biological research that combines science and engineering. Here, I merge the principles of synthetic biology and regulatory evolution to create a new species with a minimal set of known elements. Using preexisting transgenes and recessive mutations of Drosophila melanogaster, a transgenic population arises with small eyes and a different venation pattern that fulfils the criteria of a new species according to Mayr's Biological Species Concept. The population described here is the first transgenic organism that cannot hybridize with the original wild type population but remains fertile when crossed with other identical transgenic animals. I therefore propose the term "synthetic species" to distinguish it from "natural species", not only because it has been created by genetic manipulation, but also because it may never be able to survive outside the laboratory environment. The use of genetic engineering to design artificial species barriers could help us understand natural speciation and may have practical applications. For instance, the transition from transgenic organisms towards synthetic species could constitute a safety mechanism to avoid the hybridization of genetically modified animals with wild type populations, preserving biodiversity.
Nature. 2012 Jul 5;487 (7405):123-7 22722847
Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Mattenstrasse 26, CH-4058 Basel, Switzerland.
Synthetic biology has advanced the design of standardized control devices that program cellular functions and metabolic activities in living organisms. Rational interconnection of these synthetic switches resulted in increasingly complex designer networks that execute input-triggered genetic instructions with precision, robustness and computational logic reminiscent of electronic circuits. Using trigger-controlled transcription factors, which independently control gene expression, and RNA-binding proteins that inhibit the translation of transcripts harbouring specific RNA target motifs, we have designed a set of synthetic transcription–translation control devices that could be rewired in a plug-and-play manner. Here we show that these combinatorial circuits integrated a two-molecule input and performed digital computations with NOT, AND, NAND and N-IMPLY expression logic in single mammalian cells. Functional interconnection of two N-IMPLY variants resulted in bitwise intracellular XOR operations, and a combinatorial arrangement of three logic gates enabled independent cells to perform programmable half-subtractor and half-adder calculations. Individual mammalian cells capable of executing basic molecular arithmetic functions isolated or coordinated to metabolic activities in a predictable, precise and robust manner may provide new treatment strategies and bio-electronic interfaces in future gene-based and cell-based therapies.
FEBS Lett. 2012 Mar 3;: 22710179
Molecular switches are the fundamental building blocks in the field of synthetic biology. The majority of these switches is based on protein-protein, protein-DNA or protein-RNA interactions that are responsive towards endogenous metabolites or external stimuli like small molecules or light. By the rational and predictive reassembling of multiple compatible molecular switches, complex synthetic signaling networks can be engineered. Here we review how these switches were used for the regulation of important cellular processes at every level of the signaling cascade. In the second part we review how these switches can be assembled to open- and closed-loop control signaling networks and how these networks can be applied to facilitate cattle reproduction, to treat diabetes or to autonomously detect and cure disease states like gouty arthritis or cancer.
Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2012 Jun 5;: 22676891
Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland.
One of the long-term goals in synthetic biology is the construction of large-scale gene networks to control and manipulate cells. Such networks often tweak natural regulatory mechanisms, or 'switches', in order to achieve the desired function. Regulatory mechanisms that involve RNA building blocks such as messenger RNA, microRNA and riboswitches have become increasingly prominent in this regard. Recent achievements include prototype mRNA sensors, logic circuits that respond to small molecule cues to affect cell fate, and cell-state classifier networks that identify physiological states using multiple microRNA inputs. This Review describes these and other results in RNA-based synthetic biology.
Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2012 Jun 5;: 22676890
Interdepartmental Biological Sciences Graduate Program, Northwestern University, 2205 Tech Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, USA; Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, Northwestern University, 2170 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Inspired by advances in the ability to construct programmable circuits in living organisms, in vitro circuits are emerging as a viable platform for designing, understanding, and exploiting dynamic biochemical circuitry. In vitro systems allow researchers to directly access and manipulate biomolecular parts without the unwieldy complexity and intertwined dependencies that often exist in vivo. Experimental and computational foundations in DNA, DNA/RNA, and DNA/RNA/protein based circuitry have given rise to systems with more than 100 programmed molecular constituents. Functionally, they have diverse capabilities including: complex mathematical calculations, associative memory tasks, and sensing of small molecules. Progress in this field is showing that cell-free synthetic biology is a versatile testing ground for understanding native biological circuits and engineering novel functionality.
Biotechnol J. 2012 May 31;: 22649041
Crosstalk between endogenous and synthetic components - synthetic signaling meets endogenous components.
Kevin J Morey, Mauricio S Antunes, Matt J Barrow, Fernando A Solorzano, Keira L Havens, J Jeff Smith, June Medford
Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
Synthetic biology uses biological components to engineer new functionality in living organisms. We have used the tools of synthetic biology to engineer detector plants that can sense man-made chemicals, such as the explosive trinitrotoluene, and induce a response detectable by eye or instrumentation. A goal of this type of work is to make the designed system orthogonal, that is, able to function independently of systems in the host. In this review, the design and function of two partially synthetic signaling pathways for use in plants is discussed. We describe observed interactions (crosstalk) with endogenous signaling components. This crosstalk can be beneficial, allowing the creation of hybrid synthetic/endogenous signaling pathways, or detrimental, resulting in system noise and/or false positives. Current approaches in the field of synthetic biology applicable to the design of orthogonal signaling systems, including the design of synthetic components, partially synthetic systems that utilize crosstalk to signal through endogenous components, computational redesign of proteins, and the use of heterologous components, are discussed.
Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2012 May 25;: 22633822
North Carolina State University, Department of Chemistry, Raleigh, NC 27695, United States.
Highly complex synthetic gene circuits have been engineered in living organisms to develop systems with new biological properties. A precise trigger to activate or deactivate these complex systems is desired in order to tightly control different parts of a synthetic or natural network. Light represents an excellent tool to achieve this goal as it can be regulated in timing, location, intensity, and wavelength, which allows for precise spatiotemporal control over genetic circuits. Recently, light has been used as a trigger to control the biological function of small molecules, oligonucleotides, and proteins involved as parts in gene circuits. Light activation has enabled the construction of unique systems in living organisms such as band-pass filters and edge-detectors in bacterial cells. Additionally, light also allows for the regulation of intermediate steps of complex dynamic pathways in mammalian cells such as those involved in kinase networks. Herein we describe recent advancements in the area of light-controlled synthetic networks.
Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2012 May 18;: 22609335
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Institue for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Clark Hall room 207, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.
Advances in synthetic biology have augmented the available toolkit of biomolecular modules, allowing engineering and manipulation of signaling in a variety of organisms, ranging in complexity from single bacteria and eukaryotic cells to multi-cellular systems. The richness of synthetic circuit outputs can be dramatically enhanced by sophisticated environmental control systems designed to precisely pattern spatial-temporally heterogeneous environmental stimuli controlling these circuits. Moreover, the performance of the synthetic modules and 'blocks' needed to assemble more complicated networks requires more complete characterization as a function of arbitrarily complex environmental inputs. Microfluidic technologies are poised to meet these needs through a variety of innovative designs capitalizing on the unique benefits of manipulating fluids on the micro-scales and nano-scales. This review discusses the utility of microfluidics for the study of synthetic circuits and highlights recent work in the area.
Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
Synthetic gene circuits are designed to program new biological behaviour, dynamics and logic control. For all but the simplest synthetic phenotypes, this requires a structured approach to map the desired functionality to available molecular and cellular parts and processes. In other engineering disciplines, a formalized design process has greatly enhanced the scope and rate of success of projects. When engineering biological systems, a desired function must be achieved in a context that is incompletely known, is influenced by stochastic fluctuations and is capable of rich nonlinear interactions with the engineered circuitry. Here, we review progress in the provision and engineering of libraries of parts and devices, their composition into large systems and the emergence of a formal design process for synthetic biology.
FEBS Lett. 2012 May 10;: 22580058
Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine (TIGEM) Via P. Castellino 111, 80131, Naples, Italy; Dept of Computer and Systems Engineering, University of Naples "Federico II" Via Claudio 21, 80125, Naples, Italy.
The ongoing merge between engineering and biology has contributed to the emerging field of Synthetic Biology. The defining features of this new discipline are abstraction and standardisation of biological parts, decoupling between parts to prevent undesired cross-talking, and the application of quantitative modelling of synthetic genetic circuits in order to guide their design. Most of the efforts in the field of synthetic biology in the last decade have been devoted to the design and development of functional gene circuits in prokaryotes and unicellular eukaryotes. Researchers have used synthetic biology not only to engineer new functions in the cell, but also to build simpler models of endogenous gene regulatory network to gain knowledge of the "rules" governing their wiring diagram. However, the need for innovative approaches to study and modify complex signalling and regulatory networks in mammalian cells and multicellular organisms has prompted advances of Synthetic Biology also in these species, thus contributing to develop innovative ways to tackle human diseases. In this work, we will review the latest progress in synthetic biology and the most significant developments achieved so far, both in unicellular and multicellular organisms, with emphasis to human health.