Design of Adjacent Transcriptional Regions to Tune Gene Expression and Facilitate Circuit Construction.
ABSTRACT: Polycistronic architecture is common for synthetic gene circuits, however, it remains unknown how expression of one gene is affected by the presence of other genes/noncoding regions in the operon, termed adjacent transcriptional regions (ATR). Here, we constructed synthetic operons with a reporter gene flanked by different ATRs, and we found that ATRs with high GC content, small size, and low folding energy lead to high gene expression. Based on these results, we built a model of gene expression and generated a metric that takes into account ATRs. We used the metric to design and construct logic gates with low basal expression and high sensitivity and nonlinearity. Furthermore, we rationally designed synthetic 5'ATRs with different GC content and sizes to tune protein expression levels over a 300-fold range and used these to build synthetic toggle switches with varying basal expression and degrees of bistability. Our comprehensive model and gene expression metric could facilitate the future engineering of more complex synthetic gene circuits.
Project description:Versatile tools for gene expression regulation are vital for engineering gene networks of increasing scales and complexity with bespoke responses. Here, we investigate and repurpose a ubiquitous, indirect gene regulation mechanism from nature, which uses decoy protein-binding DNA sites, named DNA sponge, to modulate target gene expression in Escherichia coli. We show that synthetic DNA sponges can be designed to reshape the response profiles of gene circuits, lending multifaceted tuning capacities including reducing basal leakage by >20-fold, increasing system output amplitude by >130-fold and dynamic range by >70-fold, and mitigating host growth inhibition by >20%. Further, multi-layer DNA sponges for decoying multiple regulatory proteins provide an additive tuning effect on the responses of layered circuits compared to single-layer sponges. Our work shows synthetic DNA sponges offer a simple yet generalizable route to systematically engineer the performance of synthetic gene circuits, expanding the current toolkit for gene regulation with broad potential applications.
Project description:Synthetic biology is increasingly used to develop sophisticated living devices for basic and applied research. Many of these genetic devices are engineered using multi-copy plasmids, but as the field progresses from proof-of-principle demonstrations to practical applications, it is important to develop single-copy synthetic modules that minimize consumption of cellular resources and can be stably maintained as genomic integrants. Here we use empirical design, mathematical modeling, and iterative construction and testing to build single-copy, bistable toggle switches with improved performance and reduced metabolic load that can be stably integrated into the host genome. Deterministic and stochastic models led us to focus on basal transcription to optimize circuit performance and helped to explain the resulting circuit robustness across a large range of component expression levels. The design parameters developed here provide important guidance for future efforts to convert functional multi-copy gene circuits into optimized single-copy circuits for practical, real-world use.
Project description:Gene expression control based on CRISPRi (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats interference) has emerged as a powerful tool for creating synthetic gene circuits, both in prokaryotes and in eukaryotes; yet, its lack of cooperativity has been pointed out as a potential obstacle for dynamic or multistable synthetic circuit construction. Here we use CRISPRi to build a synthetic oscillator ("CRISPRlator"), bistable network (toggle switch) and stripe pattern-forming incoherent feed-forward loop (IFFL). Our circuit designs, conceived to feature high predictability and orthogonality, as well as low metabolic burden and context-dependency, allow us to achieve robust circuit behaviors in Escherichia coli populations. Mathematical modeling suggests that unspecific binding in CRISPRi is essential to establish multistability. Our work demonstrates the wide applicability of CRISPRi in synthetic circuits and paves the way for future efforts towards engineering more complex synthetic networks, boosted by the advantages of CRISPR technology.
Project description:We show that logic computational circuits in gene regulatory networks arise from a fibration symmetry breaking in the network structure. From this idea we implement a constructive procedure that reveals a hierarchy of genetic circuits, ubiquitous across species, that are surprising analogues to the emblematic circuits of solid-state electronics: starting from the transistor and progressing to ring oscillators, current-mirror circuits to toggle switches and flip-flops. These canonical variants serve fundamental operations of synchronization and clocks (in their symmetric states) and memory storage (in their broken symmetry states). These conclusions introduce a theoretically principled strategy to search for computational building blocks in biological networks, and present a systematic route to design synthetic biological circuits.
Project description:Gardner2000 - genetic toggle switch in E.coli
The behaviour of the genetic toggle switch and the conditions for bistability has been studies using a synthetic, bistable gene circuit.
This model is described in the article:
Construction of a genetic toggle switch in Escherichia coli.
Gardner TS, Cantor CR, Collins JJ
Nature. 2000 Jan 20;403(6767):339-42.
It has been proposed' that gene-regulatory circuits with virtually any desired property can be constructed from networks of simple regulatory elements. These properties, which include multistability and oscillations, have been found in specialized gene circuits such as the bacteriophage lambda switch and the Cyanobacteria circadian oscillator. However, these behaviours have not been demonstrated in networks of non-specialized regulatory components. Here we present the construction of a genetic toggle switch-a synthetic, bistable gene-regulatory network-in Escherichia coli and provide a simple theory that predicts the conditions necessary for bistability. The toggle is constructed from any two repressible promoters arranged in a mutually inhibitory network. It is flipped between stable states using transient chemical or thermal induction and exhibits a nearly ideal switching threshold. As a practical device, the toggle switch forms a synthetic, addressable cellular memory unit and has implications for biotechnology, biocomputing and gene therapy.
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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 formation of spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression is frequently guided by gradients of diffusible signaling molecules. The toggle switch subnetwork, composed of two cross-repressing transcription factors, is a common component of gene regulatory networks in charge of patterning, converting the continuous information provided by the gradient into discrete abutting stripes of gene expression. We present a synthetic biology framework to understand and characterize the spatiotemporal patterning properties of the toggle switch. To this end, we built a synthetic toggle switch controllable by diffusible molecules in Escherichia coli. We analyzed the patterning capabilities of the circuit by combining quantitative measurements with a mathematical reconstruction of the underlying dynamical system. The toggle switch can produce robust patterns with sharp boundaries, governed by bistability and hysteresis. We further demonstrate how the hysteresis, position, timing, and precision of the boundary can be controlled, highlighting the dynamical flexibility of the circuit.
Project description:Libraries of well-characterised components regulating gene expression levels are essential to many synthetic biology applications. While widely available for the Gram-negative model bacterium Escherichia coli, such libraries are lacking for the Gram-positive model Bacillus subtilis, a key organism for basic research and biotechnological applications. Here, we engineered a genetic toolbox comprising libraries of promoters, Ribosome Binding Sites (RBS), and protein degradation tags to precisely tune gene expression in B. subtilis We first designed a modular Expression Operating Unit (EOU) facilitating parts assembly and modifications and providing a standard genetic context for gene circuits implementation. We then selected native, constitutive promoters of B. subtilis and efficient RBS sequences from which we engineered three promoters and three RBS sequence libraries exhibiting ∼14 000-fold dynamic range in gene expression levels. We also designed a collection of SsrA proteolysis tags of variable strength. Finally, by using fluorescence fluctuation methods coupled with two-photon microscopy, we quantified the absolute concentration of GFP in a subset of strains from the library. Our complete promoters and RBS sequences library comprising over 135 constructs enables tuning of GFP concentration over five orders of magnitude, from 0.05 to 700 μM. This toolbox of regulatory components will support many research and engineering applications in B. subtilis.
Project description:Inducible transcription systems play a crucial role in a wide array of synthetic biology circuits. However, the majority of inducible promoters are constructed from a limited set of tried-and-true promoter parts, which are susceptible to common shortcomings such as high basal expression levels (i.e., leakiness). To expand the toolbox for regulated mammalian gene expression and facilitate the construction of mammalian genetic circuits with precise functionality, we quantitatively characterized a panel of eight core promoters, including sequences with mammalian, viral, and synthetic origins. We demonstrate that this selection of core promoters can provide a wide range of basal gene expression levels and achieve a gradient of fold-inductions spanning 2 orders of magnitude. Furthermore, commonly used parts such as minimal CMV and minimal SV40 promoters were shown to achieve robust gene expression upon induction, but also suffer from high levels of leakiness. In contrast, a synthetic promoter, YB_TATA, was shown to combine low basal expression with high transcription rate in the induced state to achieve significantly higher fold-induction ratios compared to all other promoters tested. These behaviors remain consistent when the promoters are coupled to different genetic outputs and different response elements, as well as across different host-cell types and DNA copy numbers. We apply this quantitative understanding of core promoter properties to the successful engineering of human T cells that respond to antigen stimulation via chimeric antigen receptor signaling specifically under hypoxic environments. Results presented in this study can facilitate the design and calibration of future mammalian synthetic biology systems capable of precisely programmed functionality.
Project description:The distinct cell types of multicellular organisms arise owing to constraints imposed by gene regulatory networks on the collective change of gene expression across the genome, creating self-stabilizing expression states, or attractors. We curated human expression data comprising 166 cell types and 2,602 transcription-regulating genes and developed a data-driven method for identifying putative determinants of cell fate built around the concept of expression reversal of gene pairs, such as those participating in toggle-switch circuits. This approach allows us to organize the cell types into their ontogenic lineage relationships. Our method identifies genes in regulatory circuits that control neuronal fate, pluripotency and blood cell differentiation, and it may be useful for prioritizing candidate factors for direct conversion of cell fate.