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A transistor is a device that amplifies and switches electronic signals. Bonnet et al. (p. 599, published online 28 March; see the Perspective by Benenson) engineered a genetic circuit to behave like a transistor in individual living cells. Instead of regulating messenger RNA levels, which has been used previously in designing such systems, the approach relied on changing the state of double-stranded DNA. Six basic logic gates were designed and constructed that were based on the activity of two serine recombinases.
Organisms must process information encoded via developmental and environmental signals to survive and reproduce. Researchers have also engineered synthetic genetic logic to realize simpler, independent control of biological processes. We developed a three-terminal device architecture, termed the transcriptor, that uses bacteriophage serine integrases to control the flow of RNA polymerase along DNA. Integrase-mediated inversion or deletion of DNA encoding transcription terminators or a promoter modulates transcription rates. We realized permanent amplifying AND, NAND, OR, XOR, NOR, and XNOR gates actuated across common control signal ranges and sequential logic supporting autonomous cell-cell communication of DNA encoding distinct logic-gate states. The single-layer digital logic architecture developed here enables engineering of amplifying logic gates to control transcription rates within and across diverse organisms.