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Research Results of PKU iGEM Team Published in Nature

Peking University, Beijing, April.19th, 2010: PKU Team for the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) won the Grand Prize in iGEM 2007. Afterwards, PKU iGEM team carried on a further, in-depth research for more than two years and achieved a crucial breakthrough in the area of synthetic biology.  Partial research results of the team were officially published in Molecular System Biology, Nature, the British journal of science, in March, 2010.

Once published, the paper has attracted extensive attention from researchers working on synthetic biology at home and abroad, ranking number one among the top 10 downloads. Lou Chunbo and Liu Xili , graduates from Center for Theoretical Biology, are the first co-authors of the paper. 12 undergraduates partook in the research project and Prof. Ouyang Yi acted as the corresponding person.

Based on the fundamental principles of Synthetic Biology and Theoretical Biology, the paper mainly concerns with the design and construction of a genetic sequential logic circuit in Escherichia coli. The circuit functions as a “push-on-push-off switch” which is actually a binary counter. The circuit consists of two basic function modules: a bistable switch memory module and a double-repressed promoter NOR gate module. Its operating principle is to trigger gene expression of bacterial cells through UV signal. In every cell, there are two presupposed conditions which switch from one to the other according to the parity number of the input UV signal. Previous studies in synthetic biology mainly focused on the design of single function module while PKU iGEM team made first attempt to synthesize vital bodies composed of several modules with more complex functions.

Synthetic biology is a new interdisciplinary area of research in the 21st century. It combines a variety of different approaches and disciplines, e.g. biology, physics, chemistry, electronic engineering and computer science, etc, aiming at reconstructing current biological systems, realizing artificial biological signal transduction and processes of biological network control as well as synthesizing new biological control processes beneficial to environment and human health.

iGEM is a worldwide yearly Synthetic Biology competition targeted at university students. It is an important gathering for the international Synthetic Biology academic circle. Moreover, iGEM serves as a significant part of research and teaching in Synthetic Biology. The competition intends to promote the theory of synthetic biology, to advance research programs and academic exchange and to cultivate interdisciplinary young talent in this area.

As the earliest Chinese iGEM team, PKU iGEM team was one of the first Chinese teams participating in the competition. The publication of PKU iGEM team’s research findings in one of the leading international scientific journals will surely have a positive impact on improving PKU students’ self-reliant scientific research ability, building up PKU’s worldwide prestige and raising China’s scientific status in the field of synthetic biology.
PKU iGEM team is made up of members from PKU iGEM society under the guidance of certain professors from Center for Theoretical Biology and School of Life Sciences. Center for Theoretical Biology provides the research opportunity, School of Life Sciences offers the laboratory and Peking University grants proper funding to the team. PKU iGEM team has broken with the traditional method in which professors played a leading role while students merely assisted and has created a new mode of doing research in which students choose projects by themselves while professors act as advisors.


Edited by: Xiang Yunke

Translated by: Chen Miaojuan

Source: Center for Theoretical Biology