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Title: The design of gene regulatory networks with feedback and small non-coding RNA
Author: Harris, Andreas William Kisling
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 8438
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The objective of the field of Synthetic Biology is to implement novel functionalities in a biological context or redesign existing biological systems. To achieve this, it employs tried and tested engineering principles, such as standardisation and the design-build-test cycle. A crucial part of this process is the convergence of modelling and experiment. The aim of this thesis is to improve the design principles employed by Synthetic Biology in the context of Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs). Small Ribonucleic Acids (sRNAs), in particular, are focussed on as a mechanism for post-transcriptional expression regulation, as they present great potential as a tool to be harnessed in GRNs. Modelling sRNA regulation and its interaction with its associated chaperone Host-Factor of Bacteriophage Qβ (Hfq) is investigated. Inclusion of Hfq is found to be necessary in stochastic models, but not in deterministic models. Secondly, feedback is core to the thesis, as it presents a means to scale-up designed systems. A linear design framework for GRNs is then presented, focussing on Transcription Factor (TF) interactions. Such frameworks are powerful as they facilitate the design of feedback. The framework supplies a block diagram methodology for visualisation and analysis of the designed circuit. In this context, phase lead and lag controllers, well-known in the context of Control Engineering, are presented as genetic motifs. A design example, employing the genetic phase lag controller, is then presented, demonstrating how the developed framework can be used to design a genetic circuit. The framework is then extended to include sRNA regulation. Four GRNs, demonstrating the simplest forms of genetic feedback, are then modelled and implemented. The feedback occurs at three different levels: autoregulation, through an sRNA and through another TF. The models of these GRNs are inspired by the implemented biological topologies, focussing on steady state behaviour and various setups. Both deterministic and stochastic models are studied. Dynamic responses of the circuits are also briefly compared. Data is presented, showing good qualitative agreement between models and experiment. Both culture level data and cell population data is presented. The latter of these is particularly useful as the moments of the distributions can be calculated and compared to results from stochastic simulation. The fit of a deterministic model to data is attempted, which results in a suggested extension of the model. The conclusion summarises the thesis, stating that modelling and experiment are in good qualitative agreement. The required next step is to be able to predict behaviour quantitatively.
Supervisor: Papachristodoulou, Antonis Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Systems biology ; Synthetic biology ; Control Engineering ; Rhamnose Activator ; System Biology ; Gene Circuits ; Feedback ; Synthetic Biology ; Gene Regulatory Networks ; Tetracycline Repressor