Gene networks that compensate for crosstalk with crosstalk.

Nature communications (2019-09-08)
Isaak E Müller, Jacob R Rubens, Tomi Jun, Daniel Graham, Ramnik Xavier, Timothy K Lu

Crosstalk is a major challenge to engineering sophisticated synthetic gene networks. A common approach is to insulate signal-transduction pathways by minimizing molecular-level crosstalk between endogenous and synthetic genetic components, but this strategy can be difficult to apply in the context of complex, natural gene networks and unknown interactions. Here, we show that synthetic gene networks can be engineered to compensate for crosstalk by integrating pathway signals, rather than by pathway insulation. We demonstrate this principle using reactive oxygen species (ROS)-responsive gene circuits in Escherichia coli that exhibit concentration-dependent crosstalk with non-cognate ROS. We quantitatively map the degree of crosstalk and design gene circuits that introduce compensatory crosstalk at the gene network level. The resulting gene network exhibits reduced crosstalk in the sensing of the two different ROS. Our results suggest that simple network motifs that compensate for pathway crosstalk can be used by biological networks to accurately interpret environmental signals.

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Methyl viologen dichloride hydrate, 98%