Associate Professor of Systems Biology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Networks, noise and evolution: Lessons from synthetic gene circuits
Genes are templates for protein synthesis. Proteins determine how cells behave. Does this mean that genes determine how cells behave? Accumulating evidence indicates that this is rarely the case, for at least three reasons. First, genes and their products are present in low numbers and move around randomly inside minuscule cellular volumes, causing stochastic reactions and protein level fluctuations. Second, genes can alter each other’s protein-producing capacity and the associated fluctuations through complex regulatory networks. Finally, cell division rate and protein levels can depend on each other, jointly defining cell population fitness. We build small synthetic gene networks (“circuits”) to control these three processes and determine how they affect cell population fitness and long-term evolution in well-defined environments.