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Logo of bmcsysbioBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Systems Biology
BMC Syst Biol. 2010; 4: 48.
Published online Apr 22, 2010. doi:  10.1186/1752-0509-4-48
PMCID: PMC2876062

Robust dynamical pattern formation from a multifunctional minimal genetic circuit



A practical problem during the analysis of natural networks is their complexity, thus the use of synthetic circuits would allow to unveil the natural mechanisms of operation. Autocatalytic gene regulatory networks play an important role in shaping the development of multicellular organisms, whereas oscillatory circuits are used to control gene expression under variable environments such as the light-dark cycle.


We propose a new mechanism to generate developmental patterns and oscillations using a minimal number of genes. For this, we design a synthetic gene circuit with an antagonistic self-regulation to study the spatio-temporal control of protein expression. Here, we show that our minimal system can behave as a biological clock or memory, and it exhibites an inherent robustness due to a quorum sensing mechanism. We analyze this property by accounting for molecular noise in an heterogeneous population. We also show how the period of the oscillations is tunable by environmental signals, and we study the bifurcations of the system by constructing different phase diagrams.


As this minimal circuit is based on a single transcriptional unit, it provides a new mechanism based on post-translational interactions to generate targeted spatio-temporal behavior.

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