Biologists Rethink the Logic Behind Cells’ Molecular Signals

Philip Ball in Quanta:

Back in 2000, when Michael Elowitz of the California Institute of Technology was still a grad student at Princeton University, he accomplished a remarkable feat in the young field of synthetic biology: He became one of the first to design and demonstrate a kind of functioning “circuit” in living cells. He and his mentor, Stanislas Leibler, inserted a suite of genes into Escherichia coli bacteria that induced controlled swings in the cells’ production of a fluorescent protein, like an oscillator in electronic circuitry.

It was a brilliant illustration of what the biologist and Nobel laureate François Jacob called the “logic of life”: a tightly controlled flow of information from genes to the traits that cells and other organisms exhibit.

But this lucid vision of circuit-like logic, which worked so elegantly in bacteria, too often fails in more complex cells.

More here.