Statistical mechanics of tuned cell signalling: sensitive collective response by synthetic biological circuits

Margaritis Voliotis, Tanniemola Liverpool

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Living cells sense and process environmental cues through noisy biochemical mechanisms. This apparatus limits the scope of engineering cells as viable sensors. Here, we highlight a mechanism that enables robust, population-wide responses to external stimulation based on cellular communication, known as quorum sensing. We propose a synthetic circuit consisting of two mutually repressing quorum sensing modules. At low cell densities the system behaves like a genetic toggle switch, while at higher cell densities the behaviour of nearby cells is coupled via diffusible quorum sensing molecules. We show by systematic coarse graining that at large length and timescales that the system can be described using the Ising model of a ferromagnet. Thus, in analogy with magnetic systems, the sensitivity of the population-wide response, or its ‘susceptibility’ to a change in the external signal, is highly enhanced for a narrow range of cell-cell coupling close to a critical value. We expect that our approach will be used to enhance the sensitivity of synthetic bio-sensing networks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number033502
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment
Volume2017
Issue number3
Early online date9 Mar 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Structured keywords

  • BrisSynBio
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute

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