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Title: Design and functional assembly of synthetic biological parts and devices
Author: Wang, Baojun
ISNI:       0000 0004 2699 6600
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2011
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Programming living cells with synthetic gene circuits to perform desired tasks has been a major theme in the emerging field of synthetic biology. However, gene circuit engineering currently lacks the same predictability and reliability as seen in other mature engineering disciplines. This thesis focuses on the design and engineering of novel modular and orthogonal biological devices, and the predictable functional assembly of modular biological elements (BioParts) into customisable larger biological devices. The thesis introduces the design methodology for engineering modular and orthogonal biological devices. A set of modular biological devices with digital logic functions, including the AND, NOT and combinatorial NAND gates, were constructed and quantitatively characterised. In particular, a novel genetic AND gate was engineered in Escherichia coli by redesigning the natural HrpR/HrpS heteroregulation motif in the hrp system of Pseudomonas syringae. The AND gate is orthogonal to E. coli chassis, and employs the alternative σ54-dependent gene transcription to achieve tight transcriptional control. Results obtained show that context has a large impact on part and device behaviour, established through the systematic characterisation of a series of biological parts and devices in various biophysical and genetic contexts. A new, effective strategy is presented for the assembly of BioParts into functional customised systems using engineered ‘incontext’ characterised modules aided by modelling, which can significantly increase the predictability of circuit construction by characterising the component parts and modules in the same biophysical and genetic contexts as anticipated in their final systems. Finally, the thesis presents the design and construction of an application-oriented integrated system – the cell density-dependent microbe-based biosensor. The in vivo biosensor was programmed to be able to integrate its own cell density signal through an engineered cell-cell communication module and a second environmental signal through an environment-responsive promoter in the logic AND manner, with GFP as the output readout.
Supervisor: Kitney, Richard Sponsor: Department for Education and Skills ; Imperial College London ; China Scholarship Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral