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Syst Synth Biol. 2010 Mar;4(1):15-23. doi: 10.1007/s11693-009-9044-5. Epub 2009 Sep 11.

Coherent activation of a synthetic mammalian gene network.


A quantitative analysis of naturally-occurring regulatory networks, especially those present in mammalian cells, is difficult due to their high complexity. Much simpler gene networks can be engineered in model organisms and analyzed as isolated regulatory modules. Recently, several synthetic networks have been constructed in mammalian systems. However, most of these engineered mammalian networks have been characterized using steady-state population level measurements. Here, we use an integrated experimental-computational approach to analyze the dynamical response of a synthetic positive feedback network in individual mammalian cells. We observe a switch-like activation of the network with variable delay times in individual cells. In agreement with a stochastic model of the network, we find that increasing the strength of the positive feedback results in a decrease in the mean delay time and a more coherent activation of individual cells. Our results are important for gaining insight into biological processes which rely on positive feedback regulation.


The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11693-009-9044-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Gene regulation; Positive feedback; Signaling dynamics; Synthetic gene network

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