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From the Community: The Importance of Insulators | Jake Beal’s Next Step

By Jake Beal

On Monday at Boston University, I attended the successful Ph.D. thesis defense of Swati Banerjee Carr, who I have been co-advising with Doug Densmore for the past couple of years.Swati’s work is, to my thinking, a classic case of how a lot of science doesn’t start with “Eureka!” but with “That’s funny…” or, as in Swati’s thesis: “Why doesn’t any of this work?!?!”  Originally, she was building a simple test system to characterize various different pairs of repressors and promoters in E. coli. These are some of the most basic and common building blocks in synthetic biology: a repressor acts on a promoter to suppress the gene controlled by that promoter, which means that controlling repressors can switch things on and off in a cell, including other repressors, making it one of the foundational tools for controlling the behavior of cells.  Practically everybody uses them, and in her system she was using some of the most well-known and best understood biological parts around, and yet when she put them together nothing worked.  When she put the parts together in different orders, however, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  “That’s funny…”With a bit of study, including results of some of my other recent work, the key problem was identified as being the bits of DNA just before the promoters, which changes depending on what else is in the system and how the parts are arranged…

For the full post see Jake Beal’s blog: Congratulations to Swati Banerjee Carr!

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