Lux-type quorum sensing systems enable communication in bacteria with only two protein components: a signal synthase and an inducible transcription activator. The simplicity of these systems makes them a popular choice for engineering collaborative behaviors in synthetic bacterial consortia, such as photographic edge detection and synchronized oscillation. To add to this body of work, we propose a pulsatile communication circuit that enables dynamic patterning and long-distance communication analogous to action potentials traveling through nerve tissue. We employed a model-driven design paradigm involving incremental characterization of in vivo design candidates with increasing circuit complexity. Beginning with a simple inducible reporter system, we screened a small number of circuits varying in their promoter and ribosomal binding site strengths. From this candidate pool, we selected a candidate to be the seed network for the subsequent round of more complex circuit variants, likewise variable in promoter and RBS strengths. The selection criteria at each level of complexity is tailored to optimize a different desirable performance characteristic. By this approach we individually optimized reporter signal-to-background ratio, pulsatile response to induction, and quiescent basal transcription, avoiding large library screens while ensuring robust performance of the composite circuit.
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