Synthetic conversion of a graded receptor signal into a tunable, reversible switch

Santhosh Palani, Casim A. Sarkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The ability to engineer an all-or-none cellular response to a given signaling ligand is important in applications ranging from biosensing to tissue engineering. However, synthetic gene network ĝ€̃ switchesĝ€™ have been limited in their applicability and tunability due to their reliance on specific components to function. Here, we present a strategy for reversible switch design that instead relies only on a robust, easily constructed network topology with two positive feedback loops and we apply the method to create highly ultrasensitive (nH >20), bistable cellular responses to a synthetic ligand/receptor complex. Independent modulation of the two feedback strengths enables rational tuning and some decoupling of steady-state (ultrasensitivity, signal amplitude, switching threshold, and bistability) and kinetic (rates of system activation and deactivation) response properties. Our integrated computational and synthetic biology approach elucidates design rules for building cellular switches with desired properties, which may be of utility in engineering signal-transduction pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number480
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
StatePublished - 2011


  • cell signaling
  • design principles
  • feedback
  • switch-like response
  • synthetic biology


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