CEXS-UPF/IBE: Employing electricity principles in genetic engineering

CEXS-UPF/IBE: Employing electricity principles in genetic engineering

News from CEXS-UPF and IBE (CSIC-UPF)

Can we predict the behavior of a live organism throughout its proteins and genes in the same way as we do it with a machine through its components? This is a key queston for many experts in synthetic biology: a discipline that looks for the application of engineering in th design of new genetically modified organisms. Scientist from the Complex Systems Lab have developed a mathematical model that predicts the gene expression of an organism and have concluded that, far from following a logic based on the peculiarities of biology, presents a striking parallel with the laws governing electrical circuits.

The team led by Carlos Rodríguez and Javier Macía has developed a mathematical model to predict the genetic load that a cell will suffer when a particular gene is introduced. The mathematical model has resulted in a formula surprisingly similar to the Ohm's law that governs electric circuits in series.

This mathematical model has been validated experimentally with bacteria. The authors of this scientific article thus confirm that a genetic circuit in response to an increasing number of genetic loads behaves analogously to an electric circuit with resistances in a series connected to a real power supply. The formula obtained and its validation demonstrate that genetic load is an additive property that allows the predictability of the whole system's behavior, a key step in genetic engineering that until now could not be achieved.

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M. Carbonell-Ballestero, E. Garcia-Ramallo, R. Montañez, C. Rodriguez-Caso, J. Macía. Dealing with the genetic load in bacterial synthetic biology circuits: convergences with the Ohm's law. Nucleic Acids Research, December 2015. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkv1280