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PLoS Comput Biol. 2011 Feb;7(2):e1001083. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001083. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Automatic design of digital synthetic gene circuits.

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  • 1Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering and Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, ETH Zurich, Basel, Switzerland.


De novo computational design of synthetic gene circuits that achieve well-defined target functions is a hard task. Existing, brute-force approaches run optimization algorithms on the structure and on the kinetic parameter values of the network. However, more direct rational methods for automatic circuit design are lacking. Focusing on digital synthetic gene circuits, we developed a methodology and a corresponding tool for in silico automatic design. For a given truth table that specifies a circuit's input-output relations, our algorithm generates and ranks several possible circuit schemes without the need for any optimization. Logic behavior is reproduced by the action of regulatory factors and chemicals on the promoters and on the ribosome binding sites of biological Boolean gates. Simulations of circuits with up to four inputs show a faithful and unequivocal truth table representation, even under parametric perturbations and stochastic noise. A comparison with already implemented circuits, in addition, reveals the potential for simpler designs with the same function. Therefore, we expect the method to help both in devising new circuits and in simplifying existing solutions.

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