RTRACS: A modularized RNA-dependent RNA transcription system with high programmability

Shotaro Ayukawa, Masahiro Takinoue, Daisuke Kiga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Creating artificial biological systems is an important research endeavor. Each success contributes to synthetic biology and adds to our understanding of the functioning of the biomachinery of life. In the construction of large, complex systems, a modular approach simplifies the design process: a multilayered system can be prepared by integrating simple modules. With the concept of modularity, a variety of synthetic biological systems have been constructed, both in vivo and in vitro. But to properly develop systems with desired functions that integrate multiple modules, researchers need accurate mathematical models. In this Account, we review the development of a modularized artificial biological system known as RTRACS (reverse transcription and transcription-based autonomous computing system). In addition to modularity, model-guided predictability is an important feature of RTRACS.RTRACS has been developed as an in vitro artificial biological system through the assembly of RNA, DNA, and enzymes. A fundamental module of RTRACS receives an input RNA with a specific sequence and returns an output RNA with another specific sequence programmed in the main body, which is composed of DNA and enzymes. The conversion of the input RNA to the output RNA is achieved through a series of programmed reactions performed by the components assembled in the module. Through the substitution of a subset of components, a module that performs the AND operation was constructed. Other logical operations could be constructed with RTRACS modules. An integration of RTRACS modules has allowed the theoretical design of more complex functions, such as oscillation. The operations of these RTRACS modules were readily predicted with a numerical simulation based on a mathematical model using realistic parameters.RTRACS has the potential to model highly complex systems that function like a living cell. RTRACS was designed to be integrated with other molecules or molecular devices, for example, aptazymes, cell-free expression systems, and liposomes. For the integration of these new modules, the quantitative controls of each module based on the numerical simulation will be instructive. The capabilities of RTRACS promise to provide models of complex biomolecular systems that are able to detect the environment, assess the situation, and react to overcome the situation. Such a smart biomolecular system could be useful in many applications, such as drug delivery systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1379
Number of pages11
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec 20
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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