Background: Multicellular organisms depend on the exchange of information between specialized cells. This communication is often difficult to decipher in its native context, but synthetic biology provides tools to engineer well-defined systems that allow the convenient study and manipulation of intercellular communication networks.
Results: Here, we present the first mammalian synthetic network for reciprocal cell-cell communication to compute the border between a sender/receiver and a processing cell population. The two populations communicate via L-tryptophan and interleukin-4 to highlight the population border by the production of a fluorescent protein. The sharpness of that visualized edge can be adjusted by modulating key parameters of the network.
Conclusions: We anticipate that this network will on the one hand be a useful tool to gain deeper insights into the mechanisms of tissue formation in nature and will on the other hand contribute to our ability to engineer artificial tissues.