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Efflux Pump Control Alters Synthetic Gene Circuit Function

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journal contribution
posted on 25.04.2016, 00:00 authored by Junchen Diao, Daniel A. Charlebois, Dmitry Nevozhay, Zoltán Bódi, Csaba Pál, Gábor Balázsi
Synthetic biology aims to design new biological systems for predefined purposes, such as the controlled secretion of biofuels, pharmaceuticals, or other chemicals. Synthetic gene circuits regulating an efflux pump from the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) protein family could achieve this. However, ABC efflux pumps can also drive out intracellular inducer molecules that control the gene circuits. This will introduce an implicit feedback that could alter gene circuit function in ways that are poorly understood. Here, we used two synthetic gene circuits inducible by tetracycline family molecules to regulate the expression of a yeast ABC pump (Pdr5p) that pumps out the inducer. Pdr5p altered the dose–responses of the original gene circuits substantially in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. While one aspect of the change could be attributed to the efflux pumping function of Pdr5p, another aspect remained unexplained. Quantitative modeling indicated that reduced regulator gene expression in addition to efflux pump function could fully explain the altered dose–responses. These predictions were validated experimentally. Overall, we highlight how efflux pumps can alter gene circuit dynamics and demonstrate the utility of mathematical modeling in understanding synthetic gene circuit function in new circumstances.