Synthetic biology and regulatory networks: where metabolic systems biology meets control engineering

Fei He, Ettore Murabito, Hans V. Westerhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Metabolic pathways can be engineered to maximize the synthesis of various products of interest. With the advent of computational systems biology, this endeavour is usually carried out through in silico theoretical studies with the aim to guide and complement further in vitro and in vivo experimental efforts. Clearly, what counts is the result in vivo, not only in terms of maximal productivity but also robustness against environmental perturbations. Engineering an organism towards an increased production flux, however, often compromises that robustness. In this contribution, we review and investigate how various analytical approaches used in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology are related to concepts developed by systems and control engineering. While trade-offs between production optimality and cellular robustness have already been studied diagnostically and statically, the dynamics also matter. Integration of the dynamic design aspects of control engineering with the more diagnostic aspects of metabolic, hierarchical control and regulation analysis is leading to the new, conceptual and operational framework required for the design of robust and productive dynamic pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20151046
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number117
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Control engineering
  • Gene expression regulation
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Metabolic networks
  • Synthetic biology
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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