Negatively Competitive Incoherent Feedforward Loops Mitigate Winner-Take-All Resource Competition

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The effects of host resource limitations on the function of synthetic gene circuits have gained significant attention over the past years. Hosts, having evolved resource capacities optimal for their own genome, have been repeatedly demonstrated to suffer from the added burden of synthetic genetic programs, which may in return pose deleterious effects on the circuit's function. Three resource controller archetypes have been proposed previously to mitigate resource distribution problems in dynamic circuits: the local controller, the global controller, and a "negatively competitive" regulatory (NCR) controller that utilizes synthetic competition to combat resource competition. The dynamics of negative feedback forms of these controllers have been previously investigated, and here we extend the analysis of these resource allocation strategies to the incoherent feedforward loop (iFFL) topology. We demonstrate that the three iFFL controllers can attenuate Winner-Take-All resource competition between two bistable switches. We uncover that the parameters associated with the synthetic competition in the NCR iFFL controller are paramount to its increased efficacy over the local controller type, while the global controllers demonstrate to be relatively ineffectual. Interestingly, unlike the negative feedback counterpart topologies, iFFL controllers exhibit a unique coupling of switch activation thresholds which we term the "coactivation threshold shift" effect. Finally, we demonstrate that a nearly fully orthogonal set of bistable switches could be achieved by pairing an NCR controller with an appropriate level of controller resource consumption.

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ACS synthetic biology

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