Optogenetic characterization methods overcome key challenges in synthetic and systems biology

来源: 时间:June 18, 2014, 8:46 a.m.

Systems biologists aim to understand how organism-level processes, such as differentiation and multicellular development, are encoded in DNA. Conversely, synthetic biologists aim to program systems-level biological processes, such as engineered tissue growth, by writing artificial DNA sequences. To achieve their goals, these groups have adapted a hierarchical electrical engineering framework that can be applied in the forward direction to design complex biological systems or in the reverse direction to analyze evolved networks. Despite much progress, this framework has been limited by an inability to directly and dynamically characterize biological components in the varied contexts of living cells. Recently, two optogenetic methods for programming custom gene expression and protein localization signals have been developed and used to reveal fundamentally new information about biological components that respond to those signals. This basic dynamic characterization approach will be a major enabling technology in synthetic and systems biology.