Many living things have stripes, but the developmental processes that create these and other patterns are complex and difficult to untangle. Now a team of scientists has designed a simple genetic circuit that creates a striped pattern that they can control by tweaking a single gene.
“The essential components can be buried in a complex physiological context,” said Terence Hwa, a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the leaders of the study published October 14 in Science. “Natural systems make all kinds of wonderful patterns, but the problem is you never know what’s really controlling it.”
With genes taken from one species of bacterium and inserted into another, Hwa and colleagues from the University of Hong Kong assembled a genetic loop from two linked modules that senses how crowded a group of cells has become and responds by controlling their movements.
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