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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2010, Article ID 541609, 16 pages
Review Article

Mathematical Modeling: Bridging the Gap between Concept and Realization in Synthetic Biology

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland, 1208D, Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Building 090, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Received 21 December 2009; Accepted 7 March 2010

Academic Editor: Hal Alper

Copyright © 2010 Yuting Zheng and Ganesh Sriram. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mathematical modeling plays an important and often indispensable role in synthetic biology because it serves as a crucial link between the concept and realization of a biological circuit. We review mathematical modeling concepts and methodologies as relevant to synthetic biology, including assumptions that underlie a model, types of modeling frameworks (deterministic and stochastic), and the importance of parameter estimation and optimization in modeling. Additionally we expound mathematical techniques used to analyze a model such as sensitivity analysis and bifurcation analysis, which enable the identification of the conditions that cause a synthetic circuit to behave in a desired manner. We also discuss the role of modeling in phenotype analysis such as metabolic and transcription network analysis and point out some available modeling standards and software. Following this, we present three case studies—a metabolic oscillator, a synthetic counter, and a bottom-up gene regulatory network—which have incorporated mathematical modeling as a central component of synthetic circuit design.