Modeling a synthetic multicellular clock: repressilators coupled by quorum sensing.

PNAS 101(30):10955 (2004) PMID 15256602 PMCID PMC503725

Diverse biochemical rhythms are generated by thousands of cellular oscillators that somehow manage to operate synchronously. In fields ranging from circadian biology to endocrinology, it remains an exciting challenge to understand how collective rhythms emerge in multicellular structures. Using mathematical and computational modeling, we study the effect of coupling through intercell signaling in a population of Escherichia coli cells expressing a synthetic biological clock. Our results predict that a diverse and noisy community of such genetic oscillators interacting through a quorum-sensing mechanism should self-synchronize in a robust way, leading to a substantially improved global rhythmicity in the system. As such, the particular system of coupled genetic oscillators considered here might be a good candidate to provide the first quantitative example of a synchronization transition in a population of biological oscillators.