Synthetic Biology

Bacteria wired for pattern formation

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Science  20 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6288, pp. 950-951
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6288.950-b

Biological regulatory systems often have impressive adaptability that can, for example, ensure that large and small individuals have appropriately sized organs. This general property is called scale invariance and can result from the interpretation of morphogenetic gradients. Cao et al. show another way in which scale invariance can be achieved. Experiments with, and mathematical modeling of, a relatively simple synthetic genetic circuit implemented in a colony of bacteria produced a ring of fluorescently labeled cells that was proportional to the size of the colony of growing cells. The pattern is explained by restrictions imposed by feedback and feedforward loops in the circuit, and cues from the accumulation of an inhibitor or consumption of a nutrient that allow the colony to sense the size of the growth environment.

Cell 10.1016/j.cell.2016.03.006 (2016).

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