Synthetic conversion of a graded receptor signal into a tunable, reversible switch.
ABSTRACT: The ability to engineer an all-or-none cellular response to a given signaling ligand is important in applications ranging from biosensing to tissue engineering. However, synthetic gene network 'switches' have been limited in their applicability and tunability due to their reliance on specific components to function. Here, we present a strategy for reversible switch design that instead relies only on a robust, easily constructed network topology with two positive feedback loops and we apply the method to create highly ultrasensitive (n(H)>20), bistable cellular responses to a synthetic ligand/receptor complex. Independent modulation of the two feedback strengths enables rational tuning and some decoupling of steady-state (ultrasensitivity, signal amplitude, switching threshold, and bistability) and kinetic (rates of system activation and deactivation) response properties. Our integrated computational and synthetic biology approach elucidates design rules for building cellular switches with desired properties, which may be of utility in engineering signal-transduction pathways.
Project description:This is the model of the minmal 2 feedback switch described in the article:
Synthetic conversion of a graded receptor signal into a tunable, reversible switch.
Santhosh Palani and Casim A. Sarkar, 2011, Molecular Systems Biology 7:480; doi: 10.1038/msb.2011.13
The ability to engineer an all-or-none cellular response to a given signaling ligand is important in applications ranging from biosensing to tissue engineering. However, synthetic gene network switches have been limited in their applicability and tunability due to their reliance on specific components to function. Here, we present a strategy for reversible switch design that instead relies only on a robust, easily constructed network topology with two positive feedback loops and we apply the method to create highly ultrasensitive (nH420), bistable cellular responses to a synthetic ligand/receptor complex. Independent modulation of the two feedback strengths enables rational tuning and some decoupling of steady-state (ultrasensitivity, signal amplitude, switching threshold, and bistability) and kinetic (rates of system activation and deactivation) response properties.
Our integrated computational and synthetic biology approach elucidates design rules for building cellular switches with desired properties, which may be of utility in engineering signal-transduction pathways.
This model is parametrised for a transcription factor and receptor feedback strength of 3, TFs = 3 and Rs = 3. To reproduce figure 1 E, the parameters TFs and Rs have to be varied accordingly.
Nomenclature for the model:
L : Ligand
R : Receptor
C : Ligand-Receptor Complex
I : Inactive Transcription Factor
X : C bound to I
A : Active Transcription Factor
This model originates from BioModels Database: A Database of Annotated Published Models (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/biomodels/). It is copyright (c) 2005-2011 The BioModels.net Team.
To cite BioModels Database, please use: Li C, Donizelli M, Rodriguez N, Dharuri H, Endler L, Chelliah V, Li L, He E, Henry A, Stefan MI, Snoep JL, Hucka M, Le Novère N, Laibe C (2010) BioModels Database: An enhanced, curated and annotated resource for published quantitative kinetic models. BMC Syst Biol., 4:92.
Project description:Natural regulatory networks contain many interacting components that allow for fine-tuning of switching and memory properties. Building simple bistable switches, synthetic biologists have learned the design principles of complex natural regulatory networks. However, most switches constructed so far are so simple (e.g. comprising two regulators) that they are functional only within a limited parameter range. Here, we report the construction of robust, tunable bistable switches in Escherichia coli using three heterologous protein regulators (ExsADC) that are sequestered into an inactive complex through a partner swapping mechanism. On the basis of mathematical modeling, we accurately predict and experimentally verify that the hysteretic region can be fine-tuned by controlling the interactions of the ExsADC regulatory cascade using the third member ExsC as a tuning knob. Additionally, we confirm that a dual-positive feedback switch can markedly increase the hysteretic region, compared to its single-positive feedback counterpart. The dual-positive feedback switch displays bistability over a 10(6)-fold range of inducer concentrations, to our knowledge, the largest range reported so far. This work demonstrates the successful interlocking of sequestration-based ultrasensitivity and positive feedback, a design principle that can be applied to the construction of robust, tunable, and predictable genetic programs to achieve increasingly sophisticated biological behaviors.
Project description:Ultrasensitivity, as described by Goldbeter and Koshland, has been considered for a long time as a way to realize bistable switches in biological systems. It is not as well recognized that when ultrasensitivity and reinforcing feedback loops are present in a spatially distributed system such as the cell plasmamembrane, they may induce bistability and spatial separation of the system into distinct signaling phases. Here we suggest that bistability of ultrasensitive signaling pathways in a diffusive environment provides a basic mechanism to realize cell membrane polarity. Cell membrane polarization is a fundamental process implicated in several basic biological phenomena, such as differentiation, proliferation, migration and morphogenesis of unicellular and multicellular organisms. We describe a simple, solvable model of cell membrane polarization based on the coupling of membrane diffusion with bistable enzymatic dynamics. The model can reproduce a broad range of symmetry-breaking events, such as those observed in eukaryotic directional sensing, the apico-basal polarization of epithelium cells, the polarization of budding and mating yeast, and the formation of Ras nanoclusters in several cell types.
Project description:Signaling networks that convert graded stimuli into binary, all-or-none cellular responses are critical in processes ranging from cell-cycle control to lineage commitment. To exhaustively enumerate topologies that exhibit this switch-like behavior, we simulated all possible two- and three-component networks on random parameter sets, and assessed the resulting response profiles for both steepness (ultrasensitivity) and extent of memory (bistability). Simulations were used to study purely enzymatic networks, purely transcriptional networks, and hybrid enzymatic/transcriptional networks, and the topologies in each class were rank ordered by parametric robustness (i.e., the percentage of applied parameter sets exhibiting ultrasensitivity or bistability). Results reveal that the distribution of network robustness is highly skewed, with the most robust topologies clustering into a small number of motifs. Hybrid networks are the most robust in generating ultrasensitivity (up to 28%) and bistability (up to 18%); strikingly, a purely transcriptional framework is the most fragile in generating either ultrasensitive (up to 3%) or bistable (up to 1%) responses. The disparity in robustness among the network classes is due in part to zero-order ultrasensitivity, an enzyme-specific phenomenon, which repeatedly emerges as a particularly robust mechanism for generating nonlinearity and can act as a building block for switch-like responses. We also highlight experimentally studied examples of topologies enabling switching behavior, in both native and synthetic systems, that rank highly in our simulations. This unbiased approach for identifying topologies capable of a given response may be useful in discovering new natural motifs and in designing robust synthetic gene networks.
Project description:Growth-mediated feedback between synthetic gene circuits and host organisms leads to diverse emerged behaviors, including growth bistability and enhanced ultrasensitivity. However, the range of possible impacts of growth feedback on gene circuits remains underexplored. Here we mathematically and experimentally demonstrated that growth feedback affects the functions of memory circuits in a network topology-dependent way. Specifically, the memory of the self-activation switch is quickly lost due to the growth-mediated dilution of the circuit products. Decoupling of growth feedback reveals its memory, manifested by its hysteresis property across a broad range of inducer concentration. On the contrary, the toggle switch is more refractory to growth-mediated dilution and can retrieve its memory after the fast-growth phase. The underlying principle lies in the different dependence of active and repressive regulations in these circuits on the growth-mediated dilution. Our results unveil the topology-dependent mechanism on how growth-mediated feedback influences the behaviors of gene circuits.
Project description:The intrinsic, or mitochondrial, pathway of caspase activation is essential for apoptosis induction by various stimuli including cytotoxic stress. It depends on the cellular context, whether cytochrome c released from mitochondria induces caspase activation gradually or in an all-or-none fashion, and whether caspase activation irreversibly commits cells to apoptosis. By analyzing a quantitative kinetic model, we show that inhibition of caspase-3 (Casp3) and Casp9 by inhibitors of apoptosis (IAPs) results in an implicit positive feedback, since cleaved Casp3 augments its own activation by sequestering IAPs away from Casp9. We demonstrate that this positive feedback brings about bistability (i.e., all-or-none behaviour), and that it cooperates with Casp3-mediated feedback cleavage of Casp9 to generate irreversibility in caspase activation. Our calculations also unravel how cell-specific protein expression brings about the observed qualitative differences in caspase activation (gradual versus all-or-none and reversible versus irreversible). Finally, known regulators of the pathway are shown to efficiently shift the apoptotic threshold stimulus, suggesting that the bistable caspase cascade computes multiple inputs into an all-or-none caspase output. As cellular inhibitory proteins (e.g., IAPs) frequently inhibit consecutive intermediates in cellular signaling cascades (e.g., Casp3 and Casp9), the feedback mechanism described in this paper is likely to be a widespread principle on how cells achieve ultrasensitivity, bistability, and irreversibility.
Project description:Bistable switches are widely used in synthetic biology to trigger cellular functions in response to environmental signals. All bistable switches developed so far, however, control the expression of target genes without access to other layers of the cellular machinery. Here, we propose a bistable switch to control the rate at which cells take up a metabolite from the environment. An uptake switch provides a new interface to command metabolic activity from the extracellular space and has great potential as a building block in more complex circuits that coordinate pathway activity across cell cultures, allocate metabolic tasks among different strains or require cell-to-cell communication with metabolic signals. Inspired by uptake systems found in nature, we propose to couple metabolite import and utilization with a genetic circuit under feedback regulation. Using mathematical models and analysis, we determined the circuit architectures that produce bistability and obtained their design space for bistability in terms of experimentally tuneable parameters. We found an activation-repression architecture to be the most robust switch because it displays bistability for the largest range of design parameters and requires little fine-tuning of the promoters' response curves. Our analytic results are based on on-off approximations of promoter activity and are in excellent qualitative agreement with simulations of more realistic models. With further analysis and simulation, we established conditions to maximize the parameter design space and to produce bimodal phenotypes via hysteresis and cell-to-cell variability. Our results highlight how mathematical analysis can drive the discovery of new circuits for synthetic biology, as the proposed circuit has all the hallmarks of a toggle switch and stands as a promising design to control metabolic phenotypes across cell cultures.
Project description:One defining goal of synthetic biology is the development of engineering-based approaches that enable the construction of gene-regulatory networks according to 'design specifications' generated from computational modelling. This approach provides a systematic framework for exploring how a given regulatory network generates a particular phenotypic behaviour. Several fundamental gene circuits have been developed using this approach, including toggle switches and oscillators, and these have been applied in new contexts such as triggered biofilm development and cellular population control. Here we describe an engineered genetic oscillator in Escherichia coli that is fast, robust and persistent, with tunable oscillatory periods as fast as 13 min. The oscillator was designed using a previously modelled network architecture comprising linked positive and negative feedback loops. Using a microfluidic platform tailored for single-cell microscopy, we precisely control environmental conditions and monitor oscillations in individual cells through multiple cycles. Experiments reveal remarkable robustness and persistence of oscillations in the designed circuit; almost every cell exhibited large-amplitude fluorescence oscillations throughout observation runs. The oscillatory period can be tuned by altering inducer levels, temperature and the media source. Computational modelling demonstrates that the key design principle for constructing a robust oscillator is a time delay in the negative feedback loop, which can mechanistically arise from the cascade of cellular processes involved in forming a functional transcription factor. The positive feedback loop increases the robustness of the oscillations and allows for greater tunability. Examination of our refined model suggested the existence of a simplified oscillator design without positive feedback, and we construct an oscillator strain confirming this computational prediction.
Project description:Switch like responses appear as common strategies in the regulation of cellular systems. Here we present a method to characterize bistable regimes in biochemical reaction networks that can be of use to both direct and reverse engineering of biological switches. In the design of a synthetic biological switch, it is important to study the capability for bistability of the underlying biochemical network structure. Chemical Reaction Network Theory (CRNT) may help at this level to decide whether a given network has the capacity for multiple positive equilibria, based on their structural properties. However, in order to build a working switch, we also need to ensure that the bistability property is robust, by studying the conditions leading to the existence of two different steady states. In the reverse engineering of biological switches, knowledge collected about the bistable regimes of the underlying potential model structures can contribute at the model identification stage to a drastic reduction of the feasible region in the parameter space of search. In this work, we make use and extend previous results of the CRNT, aiming not only to discriminate whether a biochemical reaction network can exhibit multiple steady states, but also to determine the regions within the whole space of parameters capable of producing multistationarity. To that purpose we present and justify a condition on the parameters of biochemical networks for the appearance of multistationarity, and propose an efficient and reliable computational method to check its satisfaction through the parameter space.
Project description:Ultrasensitivity allows filtering weak activating signals and responding emphatically to small changes in stronger stimuli. In the presence of positive feedback loops, ultrasensitivity enables the existence of bistability, which convert graded stimuli into switch-like, sometimes irreversible, responses. In this perspective, we discuss mechanisms that can potentially generate a bistable response in the phosphorylation/dephosphorylation monocycle that regulates the activity of cofilin in dynamic actin networks. We pay particular attention to the phosphatase Slingshot-1 (SSH-1), which is involved in a reciprocal regulation and a positive feedback loop for cofilin activation. Based on these signaling properties and experimental evidences, we propose that bistability in the cofilin signaling module might be instrumental in T cell responses to antigenic stimulation. Initially, a switch-like response in the amount of active cofilin as a function of SSH-1 activation might assist in controlling the naïve T cell specificity and sensitivity. Second, high concentrations of active cofilin might endow antigen-experienced T cells with faster and more efficient responses. We discuss the cofilin function in the context of T cell receptor triggering and spatial regulation of plasma membrane signaling molecules.