Editors' ChoiceSynthetic Biology

Engineering cell population behavior

Sci. Signal.  01 Sep 2015:
Vol. 8, Issue 392, pp. ec250
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aad3211

Attaining the full promise of synthetic biology will require designing population-level behaviors of multiple interacting cell types. As a start, Chen et al. engineered two strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli to produce signaling molecules that regulate transcription in the complementary strain (see the Perspective by Teague and Weiss). The signaling circuit was successfully designed to produce feedback loops that produce synchronous oscillations in transcription between the two strains. A mathematical model helped determine how to modulate the oscillations and control their robustness to perturbations.

Y. Chen, J. K. Kim, A. J. Hirning, K. Josić, M. R. Bennett, Emergent genetic oscillations in a synthetic microbial consortium. Science 349, 986–989 (2015). [Abstract] [Full Text]

B. P. Teague, R. Weiss, Synthetic communities, the sum of parts. Science 349, 924–925 (2015). [Summary] [Full Text]