Mammalian synthetic biology: Engineering of sophisticated gene networks
With the recent development of a wide range of inducible mammalian transgene control systems it has now become possible to create functional synthetic gene networks by linking and connecting systems into various configurations. The past 5 years has thus seen the design and construction of the first synthetic mammalian gene regulatory networks. These networks have built upon pioneering advances in prokaryotic synthetic networks and possess an impressive range of functionalities that will some day enable the engineering of sophisticated inter- and intra-cellular functions to become a reality. At a relatively simple level, the modular linking of transcriptional components has enabled the creation of genetic networks that are strongly analogous to the architectural design and functionality of electronic circuits. Thus, by combining components in different serial or parallel configurations it is possible to produce networks that follow strict logic in integrating multiple independent signals (logic gates and transcriptional cascades) or which temporally modify input signals (time-delay circuits). Progressing in terms of sophistication, synthetic transcriptional networks have also been constructed which emulate naturally occurring genetic properties, such as bistability or dynamic instability. Toggle switches which possess “memory” so as to remember transient administered inputs, hysteric switches which are resistant to stochastic fluctuations in inputs, and oscillatory networks which produce regularly timed expression outputs, are all examples of networks that have been constructed using such properties. Initial steps have also been made in designing the above networks to respond not only to exogenous signals, but also endogenous signals that may be associated with aberrant cellular function or physiology thereby providing a means for tightly controlled gene therapy applications. Moving beyond pure transcriptional control, synthetic networks have also been created which utilize phenomena, such as post-transcriptional silencing, translational control, or inter-cellular signaling to produce novel network-based control both within and between cells. It is envisaged in the not-too-distant future that these networks will provide the basis for highly sophisticated genetic manipulations in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, gene therapy and tissue engineering applications.
Journal: Journal of Biotechnology - Volume 130, Issue 4, 15 July 2007, Pages 329–345