“Synthetic Signaling Systems for Biological Discovery and Design”

Cells utilize a plethora of signal transduction pathways to shape their responses to various environmental cues and much work has been done to dissect signaling networks in this native context in order to better understand how they contribute to cellular decision making. However, it can be difficult to study the inherent properties of a specific signaling module of interest due to the multitude of confounding interactions between the module and its native environment. To obviate these challenges, we have used computational and synthetic biology approaches to construct, analyze, and perturb signaling modules ex vivo. In this talk, I will highlight findings from our work on three such systems: information processing in a kinase cascade, ribosomal initiation of protein translation, and multi-feedback regulation of receptor signaling. In all three cases, we identify novel modes of regulation that underscore the inherent flexibility of these signaling modules and elucidate biological design rules that govern the operation of these systems in native and/or synthetic contexts.


Casim Sarkar received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin (1997) and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2002). After a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Zurich, Dr. Sarkar joined the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. His research interests lie in the area of molecular cell engineering, both for fundamental biological discovery and for translational design. Applications include understanding signal processing in cell decision-making, constructing synthetic circuits for rational cell engineering, and engineering biomolecules for various biomedical and biotechnological applications. Dr. Sarkar’s honors include a Fannie & John Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship, an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, and an NSF CAREER Award.

When: Thursday, April 4, 2012 4:10 PM

Where: 1005 GBSF