Construction of Incoherent Feedforward Loop Circuits in a Cell-Free System and in Cells

ACS Synth Biol. 2019 Mar 15;8(3):606-610. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.8b00493. Epub 2019 Mar 6.


Cells utilize transcriptional regulation networks to respond to environmental signals. Network motifs, such as feedforward loops, play essential roles in these regulatory networks. In this work, we construct two different functional and modular incoherent type 1 feedforward loop circuits in a cell-free transcription-translation system and in cells. With the help of mathematical modeling and the cell-free system, we can streamline the design-build-test cycles of the circuits, in which we characterize and optimize these circuits in vitro to confirm that they function as expected before implementing them in vivo. We show that the performance of these circuits from in vitro studies closely recapitulates those from in vivo experiments. We demonstrate that these feedforward loops show dynamic response and pulse-like behavior both in vitro and in vivo. These novel feedforward loop network motifs can be incorporated in more complicated biological circuits as detectors or responders.

Keywords: biological circuit; cell-free system; feedforward loop; prototyping; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell-Free System / metabolism*
  • DNA, Circular / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Feedback, Physiological*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Synthetic Biology / methods
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA, Circular
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins