Background: Engineering genetic Boolean logic circuits is a major research theme of synthetic biology. By altering or introducing connections between genetic components, novel regulatory networks are built in order to mimic the behaviour of electronic devices such as logic gates. While electronics is a highly standardized science, genetic logic is still in its infancy, with few agreed standards. In this paper we focus on the interpretation of logical values in terms of molecular concentrations.
Results: We describe the results of computational investigations of a novel circuit that is able to trigger specific differential responses depending on the input standard used. The circuit can therefore be dynamically reconfigured (without modification) to serve as both a NAND/NOR logic gate. This multi-functional behaviour is achieved by a) varying the meanings of inputs, and b) using branch predictions (as in computer science) to display a constrained output. A thorough computational study is performed, which provides valuable insights for the future laboratory validation. The simulations focus on both single-cell and population behaviours. The latter give particular insights into the spatial behaviour of our engineered cells on a surface with a non-homogeneous distribution of inputs.
Conclusions: We present a dynamically-reconfigurable NAND/NOR genetic logic circuit that can be switched between modes of operation via a simple shift in input signal concentration. The circuit addresses important issues in genetic logic that will have significance for more complex synthetic biology applications.