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Biological processes that require orderly progression, such as growth and differentiation, proceed via regulatory checkpoints where the cell waits for signals before continuing to the next state. Implementing such control would allow genetic engineers to divide complex tasks into stages. We present genetic circuits that encode sequential logic to instruct Escherichia coli to proceed through a linear or cyclical sequence of states. These are built with 11 set-reset latches, designed with repressor-based NOR gates, which can connect to each other and sensors. The performance of circuits with up to three latches and four sensors, including a gated D latch, closely match predictions made by using nonlinear dynamics. Checkpoint control is demonstrated by switching cells between multiple circuit states in response to external signals over days.