Biology from an Engineering Perspective

For Evolution

Chapter 8 of The Tangled Bank discusses evolutionary adaptations that came about due to different types of mutation.  First, if genes are duplicated within a genome, the copies might come under the control of a new promoter.  This could change the rules about when and how much a gene is expressed.  Second, gene recruitment can occur if mutations lead to a different protein function.  The protein could acquire a second function while maintaining the first function or the old function could be lost and a new function takes its place as the purpose of that gene.

Together, these examples drive home the idea that gene expression control (example: promoter properties) and gene coding information (example: protein function) can be thought of as separate “parts”.  Synthetic biology is based on the idea that the parts could be mixed and matched to intentionally lead to a specified function.  Genetic engineers can build ever increasingly complex processes by connecting more parts together.  As an introduction to this, we will watch “Synthetic Biology: Programming Living Bacteria” by Christopher Voigt.

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