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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2013 Dec;17(6):878-92. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2013.10.003. Epub 2013 Nov 19.

Advances in genetic circuit design: novel biochemistries, deep part mining, and precision gene expression.

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Synthetic Biology Center, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Cells use regulatory networks to perform computational operations to respond to their environment. Reliably manipulating such networks would be valuable for many applications in biotechnology; for example, in having genes turn on only under a defined set of conditions or implementing dynamic or temporal control of expression. Still, building such synthetic regulatory circuits remains one of the most difficult challenges in genetic engineering and as a result they have not found widespread application. Here, we review recent advances that address the key challenges in the forward design of genetic circuits. First, we look at new design concepts, including the construction of layered digital and analog circuits, and new approaches to control circuit response functions. Second, we review recent work to apply part mining and computational design to expand the number of regulators that can be used together within one cell. Finally, we describe new approaches to obtain precise gene expression and to reduce context dependence that will accelerate circuit design by more reliably balancing regulators while reducing toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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