Retroactivity to the input in complex gene transcription networks

Andras Gyorgy, Domitilla Del Vecchio

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Synthetic biology is a bottom-up engineering discipline: biological modules are systematically designed with predefined behavior and then combined to build up larger circuits. Although the modules produce the desired behavior in isolation, they fail to operate properly when they are connected due to retroactivity, an effect which extends the notion of impedance to biomolecular systems. Despite playing a central role, retroactivity is not yet characterized in complex gene transcription networks. In this paper, we mathematically describe and quantify this effect. This result is obtained by applying singular perturbation on the finite time interval. We identify the biomolecular counterpart of impedance and introduce the effective retroactivity to the input of a gene. Furthermore, we provide a theorem describing how modules affect each other when connected. We restore modular composition of synthetic circuits by extending the characterization of modules with internal and input retroactivities. We illustrate the implications of the results by investigating crosstalk in a simple genetic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6426160
Pages (from-to)3595-3601
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control
StatePublished - 2012
Event51st IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, CDC 2012 - Maui, HI, United States
Duration: Dec 10 2012Dec 13 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Control and Optimization


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