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Molecular robots with sensors and intelligence.
Acc. Chem. Res.
PUBLISHED: 06-06-2014
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CONSPECTUS: What we can call a molecular robot is a set of molecular devices such as sensors, logic gates, and actuators integrated into a consistent system. The molecular robot is supposed to react autonomously to its environment by receiving molecular signals and making decisions by molecular computation. Building such a system has long been a dream of scientists; however, despite extensive efforts, systems having all three functions (sensing, computation, and actuation) have not been realized yet. This Account introduces an ongoing research project that focuses on the development of molecular robotics funded by MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan). This 5 year project started in July 2012 and is titled "Development of Molecular Robots Equipped with Sensors and Intelligence". The major issues in the field of molecular robotics all correspond to a feedback (i.e., plan-do-see) cycle of a robotic system. More specifically, these issues are (1) developing molecular sensors capable of handling a wide array of signals, (2) developing amplification methods of signals to drive molecular computing devices, (3) accelerating molecular computing, (4) developing actuators that are controllable by molecular computers, and (5) providing bodies of molecular robots encapsulating the above molecular devices, which implement the conformational changes and locomotion of the robots. In this Account, the latest contributions to the project are reported. There are four research teams in the project that specialize on sensing, intelligence, amoeba-like actuation, and slime-like actuation, respectively. The molecular sensor team is focusing on the development of molecular sensors that can handle a variety of signals. This team is also investigating methods to amplify signals from the molecular sensors. The molecular intelligence team is developing molecular computers and is currently focusing on a new photochemical technology for accelerating DNA-based computations. They also introduce novel computational models behind various kinds of molecular computers necessary for designing such computers. The amoeba robot team aims at constructing amoeba-like robots. The team is trying to incorporate motor proteins, including kinesin and microtubules (MTs), for use as actuators implemented in a liposomal compartment as a robot body. They are also developing a methodology to link DNA-based computation and molecular motor control. The slime robot team focuses on the development of slime-like robots. The team is evaluating various gels, including DNA gel and BZ gel, for use as actuators, as well as the body material to disperse various molecular devices in it. They also try to control the gel actuators by DNA signals coming from molecular computers.
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Computer-assisted design for scaling up systems based on DNA reaction networks.
J R Soc Interface
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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In the past few years, there have been many exciting advances in the field of molecular programming, reaching a point where implementation of non-trivial systems, such as neural networks or switchable bistable networks, is a reality. Such systems require nonlinearity, be it through signal amplification, digitalization or the generation of autonomous dynamics such as oscillations. The biochemistry of DNA systems provides such mechanisms, but assembling them in a constructive manner is still a difficult and sometimes counterintuitive process. Moreover, realistic prediction of the actual evolution of concentrations over time requires a number of side reactions, such as leaks, cross-talks or competitive interactions, to be taken into account. In this case, the design of a system targeting a given function takes much trial and error before the correct architecture can be found. To speed up this process, we have created DNA Artificial Circuits Computer-Assisted Design (DACCAD), a computer-assisted design software that supports the construction of systems for the DNA toolbox. DACCAD is ultimately aimed to design actual in vitro implementations, which is made possible by building on the experimental knowledge available on the DNA toolbox. We illustrate its effectiveness by designing various systems, from Montagne et al.'s Oligator or Padirac et al.'s bistable system to new and complex networks, including a two-bit counter or a frequency divider as well as an example of very large system encoding the game Mastermind. In the process, we highlight a variety of behaviours, such as enzymatic saturation and load effect, which would be hard to handle or even predict with a simpler model. We also show that those mechanisms, while generally seen as detrimental, can be used in a positive way, as functional part of a design. Additionally, the number of parameters included in these simulations can be large, especially in the case of complex systems. For this reason, we included the possibility to use CMA-ES, a state-of-the-art optimization algorithm that will automatically evolve parameters chosen by the user to try to match a specified behaviour. Finally, because all possible functionality cannot be captured by a single software, DACCAD includes the possibility to export a system in the synthetic biology markup language, a widely used language for describing biological reaction systems. DACCAD can be downloaded online at http://www.yannick-rondelez.com/downloads/.
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Tunable synthetic phenotypic diversification on Waddingtons landscape through autonomous signaling.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 10-24-2011
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Phenotypic diversification of cells is crucial for developmental and regenerative processes in multicellular organisms. The diversification concept is described as the motion of marbles rolling down Waddingtons landscape, in which the number of stable states changes as development proceeds. In contrast to this simple concept, the complexity of natural biomolecular processes prevents comprehension of their design principles. We have constructed, in Escherichia coli, a synthetic circuit with just four genes, which programs cells to autonomously diversify as the motion on the landscape through cell-cell communication. The circuit design was based on the combination of a bistable toggle switch with an intercellular signaling system. The cells with the circuit diversified into two distinct cell states, "high" and "low," in vivo and in silico, when all of the cells started from the low state. The synthetic diversification was affected by not only the shape of the landscape determined by the circuit design, which includes the synthesis rate of the signaling molecule, but also the number of cells in the experiments. This cell-number dependency is reminiscent of the "community effect": The fates of developing cells are determined by their number. Our synthetic circuit could be a model system for studying diversification and differentiation in higher organisms. Prospectively, further integrations of our circuit with different cellular functions will provide unique tools for directing cell fates on the population level in tissue engineering.
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Construction of a genetic AND gate under a new standard for assembly of genetic parts.
BMC Genomics
PUBLISHED: 12-02-2010
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Appropriate regulation of respective gene expressions is a bottleneck for the realization of artificial biological systems inside living cells. The modification of several promoter sequences is required to achieve appropriate regulation of the systems. However, a time-consuming process is required for the insertion of an operator, a binding site of a protein for gene expression, to the gene regulatory region of a plasmid. Thus, a standardized method for integrating operator sequences to the regulatory region of a plasmid is required.
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Robust and photocontrollable DNA capsules using azobenzenes.
Nano Lett.
PUBLISHED: 07-31-2010
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Various three-dimensional structures have been created on a nanometer scale using the self-assembly of DNA molecules. However, ordinary DNA structures breakdown readily because of their flexibility. In addition, it is difficult to control them by inputs from environments. Here, we construct robust and photocontrollable DNA capsules using azobenzenes. This provides a method to construct DNA structures that can survive higher temperatures and can be controlled with ultraviolet irradiation.
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Tunability of the ratio of cell states after the synthetic diversification by the diversity generator.
Commun Integr Biol
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The autonomous generation of phenotypic diversity in embryonic cell populations can be explained by Waddingtons landscape. The landscape proposes that intra- and inter-cellular interactions mediate the generation of cellular diversity. Recently, we implemented, in a population of Escherichia coli, a synthetic diversification, which is governed by inter-cellular signaling mediated by acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL). The cells with the diversity generator diversified into two distinct cell states, "high" and "low," if all of the cells started from the low state. The ratio of the states after the diversification was affected by the velocity of autonomous signal accumulation, which depends on the cell density and the AHL production rate of individual cells. The dependency of the ratio on the initial cell density is reminiscent of the community effect, which is observed in animal development and is important for ES-cell differentiation. Therefore, it is worthwhile reviewing the roles of natural animal gene networks with similar topologies to the diversity generator design. The diversity generator design will also be the basis for a tool to direct cell fates on the population level in tissue engineering. Here, we discuss the tunability of the ratio of cell states by our synthetic circuit design.
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What is Visualize?

JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.

How does it work?

We use abstracts found on PubMed and match them to JoVE videos to create a list of 10 to 30 related methods videos.

Video X seems to be unrelated to Abstract Y...

In developing our video relationships, we compare around 5 million PubMed articles to our library of over 4,500 methods videos. In some cases the language used in the PubMed abstracts makes matching that content to a JoVE video difficult. In other cases, there happens not to be any content in our video library that is relevant to the topic of a given abstract. In these cases, our algorithms are trying their best to display videos with relevant content, which can sometimes result in matched videos with only a slight relation.