Combining a Toggle Switch and a Repressilator within the AC-DC Circuit Generates Distinct Dynamical Behaviors

Cell Syst. 2018 Apr 25;6(4):521-530.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2018.02.008. Epub 2018 Mar 21.


Although the structure of a genetically encoded regulatory circuit is an important determinant of its function, the relationship between circuit topology and the dynamical behaviors it can exhibit is not well understood. Here, we explore the range of behaviors available to the AC-DC circuit. This circuit consists of three genes connected as a combination of a toggle switch and a repressilator. Using dynamical systems theory, we show that the AC-DC circuit exhibits both oscillations and bistability within the same region of parameter space; this generates emergent behaviors not available to either the toggle switch or the repressilator alone. The AC-DC circuit can switch on oscillations via two distinct mechanisms, one of which induces coherence into ensembles of oscillators. In addition, we show that in the presence of noise, the AC-DC circuit can behave as an excitable system capable of spatial signal propagation or coherence resonance. Together, these results demonstrate how combinations of simple motifs can exhibit multiple complex behaviors.

Keywords: coherence; coherence resonance; dynamical systems; excitable systems; gene regulatory networks; multifunctional circuits; multistability; oscillations; synthetic biology.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Systems Theory