E.C. O'Shaughnessy and C.A. Sarkar. "Analyzing and engineering cell signaling modules with synthetic biology." Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 23:785-790 (2012).
Signaling pathways lie at the heart of cellular responses to environmental cues. The ability to reconstruct specific signaling modules ex vivo allows us to study their inherent properties in an isolated environment, which in turn enables us to elucidate fundamental design principles for such motifs. This synthetic biology approach for analyzing natural, well-defined signaling modules will help to bridge the gap between studies on isolated biochemical reactions — which can provide great mechanistic detail but do not capture the complexity of endogenous signaling pathways — and those on entire networks of protein interactions — which offer a systems-level view of signal transduction but obscure the mechanisms that underlie signal transmission and processing. Additionally, minimal signaling modules can be tractably engineered to predictably alter cellular responses, opening up possibilities for creating biotechnologically and biomedically useful cellular devices.