03/07/2013 - 12:00 - Auditori PRBB

Synthetic biology: the x ways to make a stripe

Scientific sessions, CRG Group Leader Seminars

Mark Isalan

Gene Network Engineering G.R., Systems Biology Programme, CRG


Mark Isalan received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Cambridge, UK, in 2000. His PhD thesis was supervised by Prof. Sir Aaron Klug, OM, FRS, and involved engineering zinc fingers to bind new DNA sequences. This work continued postdoctorally at Gendaq Ltd, UK (now owned by Sangamo Biosciences, Richmond CA). Some of the resulting zinc fingers are available as CompoZR ZFN, from Sigma-Aldrich. In 2002 Isalan was awarded a Wellcome Trust International Research Fellowship to carry out research on engineering artificial gene networks in Luis Serrano's group at the EMBL Heidelberg, Germany. From 2006-2013, he has been a group leader at the EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Unit in Barcelona.

The aim of the group is to understand and build gene networks that behave predictably, consistently and robustly, in the context of solving medically-relevant problems. This is carried out at various levels of complexity, from engineering proteins and small networks, through analysing cellular networks, and ultimately carrying out gene therapy in whole organisms (PNAS 109:E3136-45).

Summary of the talk

In this talk, I will focus on synthetic gene regulatory networks in bacteria, with work done in collaboration with the Sharpe Group (CRG). We developed a network scaffold to engineer a complete family of related but distinct topologies, rather than individual networks on a case-by-case basis. The system allows us to explore a unified design space around a set of minimal stripe forming networks. We could thus build computationally-predicted mechanisms, some of them not yet found in nature. Furthermore, we validated the mechanisms of our networks by mutations that resulted in phenotypes as predicted by our computational model.