Team:Virginia Commonwealth/Overview




The rational, forward engineering of genetically-encoded biological systems relies partly on 1) the generation of a multitude of genetic parts and 2) the sufficient characterization of these parts. This project aims to contribute to the advancement of synthetic biology by 1) generating and sharing a library of transcriptional enhancers called UP-elements (a new class of BioBrick parts), 2) characterizing strength of transcription initiation by measuring both mRNA and protein levels (by RT-PCR and flow cytometry, respectively) and 3) elucidating UP-element design principles. We propose our characterization methodology as a minimal measurement standard and hope that the results of this project will be useful to the community.

Project Overview

We designed a variety of UP-element BioBrick parts to serve as transcriptional enhancers and characterized them with our proposed minimal measurement standard.

Figure 1: UP-element in context
Figure 2: UP-element as an enhancer for transcription initiation

In addition to designing and characterizing UP elements, we were also able to further characterize existing constitutive promoters in the registry.


  1. The nature of this project does not raise any unusual safety concerns.
  2. The local biosafety committee is the VCU School of Engineering Safety Committee.
  3. One of our advisors, Cindy Lovelace, serves on the committee and makes sure that our team followed all safety guidelines.
  4. Our new BioBrick parts should not raise any unusual safety concerns.


Background papers related to synthetic biology