Computational design of synthetic regulatory networks from a genetic library to characterize the designability of dynamical behaviors

Institute of Systems and Synthetic Biology (ISSB), Genopole - Université d'Évry Val d'Essonne - CNRS UPS3201, 91030 Évry Cedex, France.
Nucleic Acids Research (Impact Factor: 8.81). 08/2011; 39(20):e138. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkr616
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The engineering of synthetic gene networks has mostly relied on the assembly of few characterized regulatory elements using rational design principles. It is of outmost importance to analyze the scalability and limits of such a design workflow. To analyze the design capabilities of libraries of regulatory elements, we have developed the first automated design approach that combines such elements to search the genotype space associated to a given phenotypic behavior. Herein, we calculated the designability of dynamical functions obtained from circuits assembled with a given genetic library. By designing circuits working as amplitude filters, pulse counters and oscillators, we could infer new mechanisms for such behaviors. We also highlighted the hierarchical design and the optimization of the interface between devices. We dissected the functional diversity of a constrained library and we found that even such libraries can provide a rich variety of behaviors. We also found that intrinsic noise slightly reduces the designability of digital circuits, but it increases the designability of oscillators. Finally, we analyzed the robust design as a strategy to counteract the evolvability and noise in gene expression of the engineered circuits within a cellular background, obtaining mechanisms for robustness through non-linear negative feedback loops.

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    ABSTRACT: This paper presents an analysis of an emerging bottleneck in organism engineering, and paths by which it may be overcome. Recent years have seen the development of a profusion of synthetic biology tools, largely falling into two categories: high-level "design" tools aimed at mapping from organism specifications to nucleic acid sequences implementing those specifications, and low-level "build and test" tools aimed at faster, cheaper, and more reliable fabrication of those sequences and assays of their behavior in engineered biological organisms. Between the two families, however, there is a major gap: we still largely lack the predictive models and component characterization data required to effectively determine which of the many possible candidate sequences considered in the design phase are the most likely to produce useful results when built and tested. As low-level tools continue to mature, the bottleneck in biological systems engineering is shifting to be dominated by design, making this gap a critical barrier to progress. Considering how to address this gap, we find that widespread adoption of readily available analytic and assay methods is likely to lead to rapid improvement in available predictive models and component characterization models, as evidenced by a number of recent results. Such an enabling development is, in turn, likely to allow high-level tools to break the design barrier and support rapid development of transformative biological applications.
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