A major goal of biological research is to provide a mechanistic understanding of diverse biological processes. To this end, synthetic biology offers a powerful approach, whereby biological questions can be addressed in a well-defined framework. By constructing simple gene circuits, such studies have generated new insights into the design principles of gene regulatory networks. Recently, this strategy has been applied to analyze ecological and evolutionary questions, where population-level interactions are critical. Here, we highlight recent development of such systems and discuss how they were used to address problems in ecology and evolutionary biology. As illustrated by these examples, synthetic ecosystems provide a unique platform to study ecological and evolutionary phenomena that are challenging to study in their natural contexts.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/robert-smith/21/