Team:KU Leuven/Description


Our project


Patterns are fascinating, from the veins of a leaf to the stripes of a zebra. They are everywhere in nature, but why and how they are formed is not entirely understood. We, the KU Leuven 2015 iGEM team, decided to work on the fundamental mechanisms behind pattern formation. The way the cells of multicellular organisms interact to generate a specific pattern has triggered our curiosity. Our mission is to create astonishing biological patterns with engineered bacteria on a petri dish to unravel the secrets of nature. We design a ‘proof of principle’ which can form the basis for further research.

We devise a system in which two different cell types A and B of E.Coli form a complex pattern on a petri dish. Our main goal is to design a circuit capable of controlling and steering two bacterial properties essential for pattern formation, namely cell-cell interaction and motility. After a heat induced stimulus, this circuit makes bacterial cells of one type adhere and at the same time these cells repel the other type. We expect to see a pattern where cells A are clumping together and cells B, which are repelled by A, form circles around cells A. Together with possible modulation of certain experimental conditions, this circuit allows the study of pattern formation using synthetic biology in a more general way.

In order to give our modeling team the necessary data and parameters, we also create the possibility to get exact numbers by introducing different tags for protein purifications. From recent literature, we also adapt some new measurement techniques in order to better parameterize our models.

Next to this, we also model the patterns in a three layer structure. The colony level considers the bacteria as a large group of cells, described by partial differential equations. On the other hand, the internal level describes the interactions within the single cells. Finally, our hybrid model merges both colony and internal level to define the cell-cell interactions of our pattern forming cells.

Simulations from the cyber lab aid the wet lab in tuning the experimental conditions that lead to the desirable patterns. At the same time, results from the lab give the modeling team more data and parameters to fit their models to different conditions. Interaction between wet lab and cyber lab is clearly a crucial factor to the successful design our experiments.


Address: Celestijnenlaan 200G room 00.08 - 3001 Heverlee
Telephone: +32(0)16 32 73 19