Integral feedback in synthetic biology: Negative-equilibrium catastrophe

2023. 10. 10. 17:15
Tomislav Plesa

Tomislav Plesa (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge):  Integral feedback in synthetic biology: Negative-equilibrium catastrophe

Abstract: A central goal of synthetic biology is the design of molecular controllers that can manipulate the dynamics of intracellular networks in a stable and accurate manner. To address the fact that detailed knowledge about intracellular networks is unavailable, integral feedback controllers (IFCs) have been put forward for controlling molecular abundances. These controllers can maintain accuracy in spite of the uncertainties in the controlled networks. However, this desirable feature is achieved only if stability is also maintained. In this talk, it is shown that molecular IFCs can suffer from a hazardous instability called negative-equilibrium catastrophe (NEC), whereby all nonnegative equilibria vanish under the action of the controllers, and some of the molecular abundances blow up. We show that unimolecular IFCs do not exist due to a NEC. We then derive a family of bimolecular IFCs that are safeguarded against NECs when uncertain unimolecular networks, with any number of molecular species, are controlled. However, when IFCs are applied on uncertain bimolecular (and hence most intracellular) networks, we show that preventing NECs generally becomes an intractable problem as the number of interacting molecular species increases. NECs therefore place a fundamental limit on the design and control of molecular networks.

Zoom link is available from the organizer of the seminar. Please contact János Tóth at jtoth(at)