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MIT Team Builds Most Complex Synthetic Biology Circuit Yet

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New genetic circuits

MIT biological engineers created new genetic circuits using genes found in Salmonella (seen here) and other bacteria.

Credit: NIH

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed circuit components that do not interfere with one another, enabling them to produce complex synthetic circuits.

The circuit integrates four sensors for different molecules, and could be used in cells to precisely monitor their environments and respond appropriately. The researchers started by studying the bacterium that causes salmonella, which has a cellular pathway that controls the injection of proteins into human cells. "It's a very tightly regulated circuit, which is what makes it a good synthetic circuit," says MIT professor Christopher Voigt.

The pathway consists of activator, promoter, and chaperone proteins. The researchers found 60 different versions of this pathway in other species of bacteria. However, there was some crosstalk between a few of the circuit components, so the researchers used directed evolution to reduce it. Directed evolution involves mutating a gene to create thousands of similar variants, and then testing them for the desired trait. The best candidates are mutated and screened again until the optimal gene is created.

"This study provides valuable examples of the types of optimizations that they may have to do in order to accomplish such goals," says Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher Aindrila Mukhopadhyay.

From MIT News 
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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