Synthetic Biology

How Escherichia coli Got Its Stripes

Science Signaling  18 Oct 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 195, pp. ec290
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.4195ec290

How living organisms develop regular anatomic patterns can be difficult to unravel when studied in the context of complex physiology. Synthetic biology provides a bottom-up approach to identify minimal circuits that can drive patterning. Liu et al. describe a synthetic genetic circuit that couples cell density and motility to program the formation of periodic stripes in a growing E. coli population. The system could be adjusted to modulate the patterning, and a mathematical model was able to predict the experimental results.

C. Liu, X. Fu, L. Liu, X. Ren, C. K. L. Chau, S. Li, L. Xiang, H. Zeng, G. Chen, L.-H. Tang, P. Lenz, X. Cui, W. Huang, T. Hwa, J.-D. Huang, Sequential establishment of stripe patterns in an expanding cell population. Science 334, 238–241 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]