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Title: Design and implementation of a mammalian synthetic gene oscillator
Author: Sant'Ana Pereira, Hugo
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 4615
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2017
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The core goal of synthetic biology as a discipline is to design, develop and characterize biological parts in order to precisely control cellular behaviour. Much of the research in this field has been focused on the development of gene regulatory networks, namely switches and oscillators. The study of synthetic gene oscillators has attracted significant attention in the past decade due to their intriguing dynamics and relevance in controlling inflammatory, metabolic and circadian signalling pathways. Additionally, the precise expression dynamics and molecular mechanisms that underlie the mammalian circadian clock structure are not fully understood. The work presented herein regards the design and implementation of a tuneable mammalian synthetic gene oscillator with a novel biological structure. To this end, an approach based on a combination of in silico design and in vivo part validation, in conjunction with a comparative analysis of previously implemented synthetic gene oscillators, was taken when assembling the proposed system. The topology of the system relies on a delayed negative feedback loop, consisting of the coupled regulatory activities of the transcription regulators LacI, tTA, and Gal4. The numerical solution and stability analysis of an ODE-based model describing the dynamics of the system are indicative that the proposed system is capable of generating sustained oscillations across a wide range of parameter values. The biological parts that comprise the system have been monitored and validated in HEK293T cells through time-lapse fluorescence microscopy and image analysis. The in vivo performance of the proposed mammalian synthetic gene oscillator was also assessed in the HEK293T cell line, and monitored using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy. Damped fluorescence oscillations were observed: these could be tuned by a differential IPTG concentration gradient and abolished by doxycycline. The proposed mammalian synthetic gene oscillator provides valuable insight into the gene expression regulatory processes leading to oscillatory behaviour, and has the potential to foster progress in future synthetic biology-based therapies.
Supervisor: Krams, Rob ; Polizzi, Karen ; Dallman, Maggie Sponsor: BBSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral