Research Projects

Mathematics and Synthesis of a Contact-Mediated Multicellular Patterning System

Murat Arcak, Michel Maharbiz and Adam Arkin1

NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences 1R01GM109460-01

The objective of this project is to develop a new mathematical approach to the analysis of pattern formation by contact-mediated signaling and to leverage the results to engineer a programmable multicellular patterning system. The mathematical approach blends graph-theoretic ideas with dynamical systems techniques to develop systematic tools for predicting and designing patterns, applicable to large networks of cells and broad classes of contact-mediated systems. To engineer a synthetic bacterial contact signaling system, we propose to modify the newly discovered E. coli contact-dependent inhibition (CDI) system so that we can transfer proteins that control gene expression to adjacent cells. Contact-mediated signaling would allow higher information content than the previous quorum signaling systems, since whole proteins with different functionality may be transferred. By reestablishing patterning in a simple bacterial medium, this system will provide a testbed for theories of control and robustness in biological development. This patterning system may also lead to applications in programmable materials, tissue engineering, and compartmented biosynthesis.

1Bioengineering Department