Building synthetic gene circuits from combinatorial libraries: screening and selection strategies
The promise of wide-ranging biotechnology applications inspires synthetic biologists to design novel genetic circuits. However, building such circuits rationally is still not straightforward and often involves painstaking trial-and-error. Mimicking the process of natural selection can help us to bridge the gap between our incomplete understanding of nature's design rules and our desire to build functional networks. By adopting the powerful method of directed evolution, which is usually applied to protein engineering, functional networks can be obtained through screening or selecting from randomised combinatorial libraries. This review first highlights the practical options to introduce combinatorial diversity into gene circuits and then examines strategies for identifying the potentially rare library members with desired functions, either by screening or selection.