Genetic Circuits Workshop

Moon Research Group

Bacteria can modify their phenotype in response to environmental signals. And simple genetic transformation procedures allow us to modify the genotype of an organism. When you combine these two concepts, it becomes possible to imagine how bacteria can be programmed to perform logic, similar to the logical functions performed by computers. A genetic circuit allows bacteria to respond to environmental signals in a logically programmed manner.

Moon research visionIn the WUSTL laboratory of Tae Seok Moon, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, research goals are directed towards programmable cells that process multiple input signals to produce desirable outputs for real world applications. Specifically, the Moon Research Group aims to build synthetic gene circuits in order to control and improve metabolic pathways for the production of biomass-based chemicals and drugs.

Led by WUSTL graduate research scientists Allison Hoynes-O’Connor and Cheryl Immethun, this free workshop will explore how genetic circuits are constructed, how they function, and how they can be harnessed for practical use. Participants will learn to perform a genetic circuit laboratory investigation that is suitable for use in the high school biology classroom.

Workshop Highlights:

  • Training in the genetic circuit lab investigation and access to free lab materials for use in the classroom.
  • Opportunity for Q&A and discussion with WUSTL gene circuit research scientists.
  • Learn how you can modernize your lab curriculum with current techniques used in synthetic biology research labs around the world.
  • Networking with other local teachers with interest in biotechnology.

Input 1 causes the expression of the chaperone protein and input 2 causes the expression of the transcription factor. The chaperone and transcription factor interact, and together cause the expression of the output, which in our case will be GFP. Therefore only when both inputs are present will GFP be expressed.

All high school biology teachers are welcome to participate in the workshop.

Register for the upcoming workshop on June 30.

The lab investigation includes insertion of a plasmid containing GFP (green fluorescent protein) into E.coli, and then testing of the genetic circuit through assessment of output (fluorescence) depending on the presence or absence of certain chemicals.

The genetic circuit lab investigation is targeted primarily at honors or AP high school biology students, but the lab can be presented in a simpler form to general biology students.

Learn more about the Moon Research Group educational outreach activities here.

Introductory video on synthetic biology