BIOFAB produces its first datasheet
The BIOFAB's first datasheet provides information about three previously uncharacterized promoters that we obtained from the MIT Registry of Standard Biological Parts. We will use such datasheets to formally capture and share information about the parts that we build and characterize (see Canton et. al., 2008). We hope that all users, ranging from theoretical biophysicists to highschool students, will help us to develop quality measurements based upon their needs and application. An understanding of quality will help to define specific objectives for the build-out of our operational capacities.
In the top right corner of the datasheet, we include a symbol in order to visually communicate that the measured objects are promoters. The symbol is a part of a first-generation standard language called SBOL (Synthetic Biology Open Language), which is being developed by the Synthetic Biology Data Exchange Group (link). In the center of the datasheet, we provide information about the levels and variability of green fluorescent protein expression under the control of each promoter on identical vectors, in the same strain, and assayed in the same conditions. We report promoter activity levels in relative promoter units (RPUs) so that our measurements may be more reliably compared to those made by other researchers in other laboratories (Kelly et. al., 2009). Finally, we provide supplemental information about our measurements in the bottom panel of the datasheet.
We acknowledge that biological engineering does not yet possess a theory of what the minimal information about a biological part should be (Arkin, 2008). We also recognize that part behavior can be measured in many contexts using a range of instruments that offer different degrees of precision. With these points in mind, both the context and instruments used for part characterization should probably be chosen based upon the specific needs of the users of the information. While the blunt measurement of green fluorescent protein expression reported on our first datasheet may meet the needs of some users, others may require precise quantification of gene expression parameters.