Design and analysis of a robust genetic Muller C-element

Nam Phuong Nguyen*, Chris Myers, Hiroyuki Kuwahara, Chris Winstead, James Keener

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This paper presents results on the design and analysis of a robust genetic Muller C-element. The Muller C-element is a standard logic gate commonly used to synchronize independent processes in most asynchronous electronic circuits. Synthetic biological logic gates have been previously demonstrated, but there remain many open issues in the design of sequential (state-holding) logic operations. Three designs are considered for the genetic Muller C-element: a majority gate, a toggle switch, and a speed-independent implementation. While the three designs are logically equivalent, each design requires different assumptions to operate correctly. The majority gate design requires the most timing assumptions, the speed-independent design requires the least, and the toggle switch design is a compromise between the two. This paper examines the robustness of these designs as well as the effects of parameter variation using stochastic simulation. The results show that robustness to timing assumptions does not necessarily increase reliability, suggesting that modifications to existing logic design tools are going to be necessary for synthetic biology. Parameter variation simulations yield further insights into the design principles necessary for building robust genetic gates. The results suggest that high gene count, cooperativity of at least two, tight repression, and balanced decay rates are necessary for robust gates. Finally, this paper presents a potential application of the genetic Muller C-element as a quorum-mediated trigger.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-187
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of theoretical biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Genetic circuit
  • Synthetic logic gate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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