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author:("sales, Howard")
1.  Efficient search, mapping, and optimization of multi-protein genetic systems in diverse bacteria 
Molecular Systems Biology  2014;10(6):731.
Developing predictive models of multi-protein genetic systems to understand and optimize their behavior remains a combinatorial challenge, particularly when measurement throughput is limited. We developed a computational approach to build predictive models and identify optimal sequences and expression levels, while circumventing combinatorial explosion. Maximally informative genetic system variants were first designed by the RBS Library Calculator, an algorithm to design sequences for efficiently searching a multi-protein expression space across a > 10,000-fold range with tailored search parameters and well-predicted translation rates. We validated the algorithm's predictions by characterizing 646 genetic system variants, encoded in plasmids and genomes, expressed in six gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial hosts. We then combined the search algorithm with system-level kinetic modeling, requiring the construction and characterization of 73 variants to build a sequence-expression-activity map (SEAMAP) for a biosynthesis pathway. Using model predictions, we designed and characterized 47 additional pathway variants to navigate its activity space, find optimal expression regions with desired activity response curves, and relieve rate-limiting steps in metabolism. Creating sequence-expression-activity maps accelerates the optimization of many protein systems and allows previous measurements to quantitatively inform future designs.
PMCID: PMC4265053  PMID: 24952589
biophysical models; pathway optimization; SEAMAPs; synthetic biology
2.  Translation rate is controlled by coupled trade-offs between site accessibility, selective RNA unfolding and sliding at upstream standby sites 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(4):2646-2659.
The ribosome’s interactions with mRNA govern its translation rate and the effects of post-transcriptional regulation. Long, structured 5′ untranslated regions (5′ UTRs) are commonly found in bacterial mRNAs, though the physical mechanisms that determine how the ribosome binds these upstream regions remain poorly defined. Here, we systematically investigate the ribosome’s interactions with structured standby sites, upstream of Shine–Dalgarno sequences, and show that these interactions can modulate translation initiation rates by over 100-fold. We find that an mRNA’s translation initiation rate is controlled by the amount of single-stranded surface area, the partial unfolding of RNA structures to minimize the ribosome’s binding free energy penalty, the absence of cooperative binding and the potential for ribosomal sliding. We develop a biophysical model employing thermodynamic first principles and a four-parameter free energy model to accurately predict the ribosome’s translation initiation rates for 136 synthetic 5′ UTRs with large structures, diverse shapes and multiple standby site modules. The model predicts and experiments confirm that the ribosome can readily bind distant standby site modules that support high translation rates, providing a physical mechanism for observed context effects and long-range post-transcriptional regulation.
PMCID: PMC3936740  PMID: 24234441
3.  Kinetic Buffering of Cross Talk between Bacterial Two-Component Sensors 
Journal of molecular biology  2009;390(3):380-393.
Two-component systems are a class of sensors that enable bacteria to respond to environmental and cell-state signals. The canonical system consists of a membrane-bound sensor histidine kinase that autophosphorylates in response to a signal and transfers the phosphate to an intracellular response regulator. Bacteria typically have dozens of two-component systems. The key questions are whether these systems are linear and, if they are, how cross talk between systems is buffered. In this work, we studied the EnvZ/OmpR and CpxA/CpxR systems from Escherichia coli, which have been shown previously to exhibit slow cross talk in vitro. Using in vitro radiolabeling and a rapid quenched-flow apparatus, we experimentally measured 10 biochemical parameters capturing the cognate and non-cognate phosphotransfer reactions between the systems. These data were used to parameterize a mathematical model that was used to predict how cross talk is affected as different genes are knocked out. It was predicted that significant cross talk between EnvZ and CpxR only occurs for the triple mutant ΔompR ΔcpxA ΔactA-pta. All seven combinations of these knockouts were made to test this prediction and only the triple mutant demonstrated significant cross talk, where the cpxP promoter was induced 280-fold upon the activation of EnvZ. Furthermore, the behavior of the other knockouts agrees with the model predictions. These results support a kinetic model of buffering where both the cognate bifunctional phosphatase activity and the competition between regulator proteins for phosphate prevent cross talk in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2974629  PMID: 19445950
two-component systems; systems biology; synthetic biology; computational biology; genetic circuits
4.  A Synthetic Genetic Edge Detection Program 
Cell  2009;137(7):1272-1281.
Edge detection is a signal processing algorithm common in artificial intelligence and image recognition programs. We have constructed a genetically encoded edge detection algorithm that programs an isogenic community of E.coli to sense an image of light, communicate to identify the light-dark edges, and visually present the result of the computation. The algorithm is implemented using multiple genetic circuits. An engineered light sensor enables cells to distinguish between light and dark regions. In the dark, cells produce a diffusible chemical signal that diffuses into light regions. Genetic logic gates are used so that only cells that sense light and the diffusible signal produce a positive output. A mathematical model constructed from first principles and parameterized with experimental measurements of the component circuits predicts the performance of the complete program. Quantitatively accurate models will facilitate the engineering of more complex biological behaviors and inform bottom-up studies of natural genetic regulatory networks.
PMCID: PMC2775486  PMID: 19563759
5.  Automated Design of Synthetic Ribosome Binding Sites to Precisely Control Protein Expression 
Nature biotechnology  2009;27(10):946-950.
Microbial engineering often requires fine control over protein expression; for example, to connect genetic circuits 1-7 or control flux through a metabolic pathway 8-13. We have developed a predictive design method for synthetic ribosome binding sites that enables the rational control of a protein's production rate on a proportional scale. Experimental validation of over 100 predictions in Escherichia coli shows that the method is accurate to within a factor of 2.3 over a range of 100,000-fold. The design method also correctly predicts that reusing a ribosome binding site sequence in different genetic contexts can result in different protein expression levels. We demonstrate the method's utility by rationally optimizing a protein's expression level to connect a genetic sensor to a synthetic circuit. The proposed forward engineering approach will accelerate the construction and systematic optimization of large genetic systems.
PMCID: PMC2782888  PMID: 19801975
synthetic biology; translation; optimization; metabolic engineering; genetic circuit; RNA secondary structure
6.  Induction and Relaxation Dynamics of the Regulatory Network Controlling the Type III Secretion System encoded within Salmonella Pathogenicity Island 1 
Journal of molecular biology  2007;377(1):47-61.
Bacterial pathogenesis requires the precise spatial and temporal control of gene expression, the dynamics of which are controlled by regulatory networks. A network encoded within Salmonella Pathogenicity Island 1 controls the expression of a type III protein secretion system involved in the invasion of host cells. The dynamics of this network are measured in single cells using promoter-green fluorescent protein (gfp) reporters and flow cytometry. During induction, there is a temporal order of gene expression, with transcriptional inputs turning on first, followed by structure, and effector genes. The promoters show varying stochastic properties, where graded inputs are converted into all-or-none and hybrid responses. The relaxation dynamics are measured by shifting cells from inducing into non-inducing conditions and measuring the fluorescence decay. The gfp expressed from promoters controlling the transcriptional inputs (hilC and hilD) and structural genes (prgH) decay exponentially with a characteristic time of 50–55 minutes. In contrast, the gfp expressed from a promoter controlling the expression of effectors (sicA) persists for 110 ± 9 minutes. This promoter is controlled by a genetic circuit formed by a transcription factor (InvF), chaperone (SicA) and secreted protein (SipC) that regulates effector expression in response to the secretion capacity of the cell. A mathematical model of this circuit demonstrates that the delay is due to a split positive feedback loop. This model is tested in a ΔsicA knockout where sicA is complemented with and without the feedback loop. The delay is eliminated when the feedback loop is deleted. Further, a robustness analysis of the model predicts that the delay time can be tuned by changing the affinity of SicA:InvF multimers to an operator in the sicA promoter. This prediction is used to construct a targeted library, which contains mutants with both longer and shorter delays. This combination of theory and experiments provides a platform to predict how genetic perturbations lead to changes in the global dynamics of a regulatory network.
PMCID: PMC2280070  PMID: 18242639
bistability; cascade; genetic circuit; invasion; stochastic
7.  Multiscale Hy3S: Hybrid stochastic simulation for supercomputers 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:93.
Stochastic simulation has become a useful tool to both study natural biological systems and design new synthetic ones. By capturing the intrinsic molecular fluctuations of "small" systems, these simulations produce a more accurate picture of single cell dynamics, including interesting phenomena missed by deterministic methods, such as noise-induced oscillations and transitions between stable states. However, the computational cost of the original stochastic simulation algorithm can be high, motivating the use of hybrid stochastic methods. Hybrid stochastic methods partition the system into multiple subsets and describe each subset as a different representation, such as a jump Markov, Poisson, continuous Markov, or deterministic process. By applying valid approximations and self-consistently merging disparate descriptions, a method can be considerably faster, while retaining accuracy. In this paper, we describe Hy3S, a collection of multiscale simulation programs.
Building on our previous work on developing novel hybrid stochastic algorithms, we have created the Hy3S software package to enable scientists and engineers to both study and design extremely large well-mixed biological systems with many thousands of reactions and chemical species. We have added adaptive stochastic numerical integrators to permit the robust simulation of dynamically stiff biological systems. In addition, Hy3S has many useful features, including embarrassingly parallelized simulations with MPI; special discrete events, such as transcriptional and translation elongation and cell division; mid-simulation perturbations in both the number of molecules of species and reaction kinetic parameters; combinatorial variation of both initial conditions and kinetic parameters to enable sensitivity analysis; use of NetCDF optimized binary format to quickly read and write large datasets; and a simple graphical user interface, written in Matlab, to help users create biological systems and analyze data. We demonstrate the accuracy and efficiency of Hy3S with examples, including a large-scale system benchmark and a complex bistable biochemical network with positive feedback. The software itself is open-sourced under the GPL license and is modular, allowing users to modify it for their own purposes.
Hy3S is a powerful suite of simulation programs for simulating the stochastic dynamics of networks of biochemical reactions. Its first public version enables computational biologists to more efficiently investigate the dynamics of realistic biological systems.
PMCID: PMC1421438  PMID: 16504125

Results 1-7 (7)