Sebastian Maerkl, Apr 2013

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Sebastian Maerkl will visit Caltech on 7-8 April.



  • 10 am - meeting with Richard
  • 11 am - open (Zach?)
  • 12 pm - lunch with Richard and Zach?
  • 2 pm - Informal seminar
  • 3 pm - Open discussions
  • 4 pm - Individual meetings


  • Individual meetings
  • ALL demo (Sean/Enoch)?
  • 2 pm - Yutaka (time flexible; any time in Tuesday afternoon)
  • 5 pm - Done for the day


In vitro Synthetic Biology (a cell-free talk)

Sebastian J. Maerkl
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

7 Apr (Mon), 2-3 pm
111 Keck

Living cells maintain a steady state of biochemical reaction rates by exchanging energy and matter with the environment. These exchanges usually do not occur in in vitro systems, which consequently go to chemical equilibrium. This in turn has severely constrained the complexity of biological networks that can be implemented in vitro. We developed nanoliter-scale microfluidic reactors that exchange reagents at dilution rates matching those of dividing bacteria. In these reactors we achieved transcription and translation at steady state for 30 h and implemented diverse regulatory mechanisms on the transcriptional, translational, and posttranslational levels, including RNA polymerases, transcriptional repression, translational activation, and proteolysis. We constructed and implemented an in vitro genetic oscillator and mapped its phase diagram showing that steady-state conditions were necessary to produce oscillations.

One potential application of in vitro synthetic biology is rapid prototyping of genetic circuits. This in turn requires that components and systems can be transferred from in vitro to in vivo, which has not yet been demonstrated for more complex genetic circuits. I will present recent results indicating that it is possible to transfer a functional in vivo genetic circuit (the repressilator) to our in vitro environment as a first step towards closing the loop between in vitro characterization and optimization of genetic circuits and their in vivo implementation.