Two- and three-input TALE-based AND logic computation in embryonic stem cells.
ABSTRACT: Biological computing circuits can enhance our ability to control cellular functions and have potential applications in tissue engineering and medical treatments. Transcriptional activator-like effectors (TALEs) represent attractive components of synthetic gene regulatory circuits, as they can be designed de novo to target a given DNA sequence. We here demonstrate that TALEs can perform Boolean logic computation in mammalian cells. Using a split-intein protein-splicing strategy, we show that a functional TALE can be reconstituted from two inactive parts, thus generating two-input AND logic computation. We further demonstrate three-piece intein splicing in mammalian cells and use it to perform three-input AND computation. Using methods for random as well as targeted insertion of these relatively large genetic circuits, we show that TALE-based logic circuits are functional when integrated into the genome of mouse embryonic stem cells. Comparing construct variants in the same genomic context, we modulated the strength of the TALE-responsive promoter to improve the output of these circuits. Our work establishes split TALEs as a tool for building logic computation with the potential of controlling expression of endogenous genes or transgenes in response to a combination of cellular signals.
Project description:The ability to perform molecular-level computation in mammalian cells has the potential to enable a new wave of sophisticated cell-based therapies and diagnostics. To this end, we developed a Boolean logic framework utilizing artificial Cys(2)-His(2) zinc finger transcription factors (ZF-TFs) as computing elements. Artificial ZFs can be designed to specifically bind different DNA sequences and thus comprise a diverse set of components ideal for the construction of scalable networks. We generate ZF-TF activators and repressors and demonstrate a novel, general method to tune ZF-TF response by fusing ZF-TFs to leucine zipper homodimerization domains. We describe 15 transcriptional activators that display 2- to 463-fold induction and 15 transcriptional repressors that show 1.3- to 16-fold repression. Using these ZF-TFs, we compute OR, NOR, AND and NAND logic, employing hybrid promoters and split intein-mediated protein splicing to integrate signals. The split intein strategy is able to fully reconstitute the ZF-TFs, maintaining them as a uniform set of computing elements. Together, these components comprise a robust platform for building mammalian synthetic gene circuits capable of precisely modulating cellular behavior.
Project description:Development of orthogonal, designable and adjustable transcriptional regulators is an important goal of synthetic biology. Their activity has been typically modulated through stimulus-induced oligomerization or interaction between the DNA-binding and activation/repression domain. We exploited a feature of the designable Transcription activator-like effector (TALE) DNA-binding domain that it winds around the DNA which allows to topologically prevent it from binding by intramolecular cyclization. This new approach was investigated through noncovalent ligand-induced cyclization or through a covalent split intein cyclization strategy, where the topological inhibition of DNA binding by cyclization and its restoration by a proteolytic release of the topologic constraint was expected. We show that locked TALEs indeed have diminished DNA binding and regain full transcriptional activity by stimulation with the rapamycin ligand or site-specific proteolysis of the peptide linker, with much higher level of activation than rapamycin-induced heterodimerization. Additionally, we demonstrated reversibility, activation of genomic targets and implemented logic gates based on combinations of protein cyclization, proteolytic cleavage and ligand-induced dimerization, where the strongest fold induction was achieved by the proteolytic cleavage of a repression domain from a linear TALE.
Project description:Inteins are protein segments capable of joining adjacent residues via a peptide bond. In this process known as protein splicing, the intein itself is not present in the final sequence, thus achieving scarless peptide ligation. Here, we assess the splicing activity of 34 inteins (both uncharacterized and known) using a rapid split fluorescent reporter characterization platform, and establish a library of 15 mutually orthogonal split inteins for in vivo applications, 10 of which can be simultaneously used in vitro. We show that orthogonal split inteins can be coupled to multiple split transcription factors to implement complex logic circuits in living organisms, and that they can also be used for the in vitro seamless assembly of large repetitive proteins with biotechnological relevance. Our work demonstrates the versatility and vast potential of an expanded library of orthogonal split inteins for their use in the fields of synthetic biology and protein engineering.
Project description:Engineered genetic circuits for mammalian cells often require extensive fine-tuning to perform as intended. We present a robust, general, scalable system, called 'Boolean logic and arithmetic through DNA excision' (BLADE), to engineer genetic circuits with multiple inputs and outputs in mammalian cells with minimal optimization. The reliability of BLADE arises from its reliance on recombinases under the control of a single promoter, which integrates circuit signals on a single transcriptional layer. We used BLADE to build 113 circuits in human embryonic kidney and Jurkat T cells and devised a quantitative, vector-proximity metric to evaluate their performance. Of 113 circuits analyzed, 109 functioned (96.5%) as intended without optimization. The circuits, which are available through Addgene, include a 3-input, two-output full adder; a 6-input, one-output Boolean logic look-up table; circuits with small-molecule-inducible control; and circuits that incorporate CRISPR-Cas9 to regulate endogenous genes. BLADE enables execution of sophisticated cellular computation in mammalian cells, with applications in cell and tissue engineering.
Project description:Serine integrases are emerging as core tools in synthetic biology and have applications in biotechnology and genome engineering. We have designed a split-intein serine integrase-based system with potential for regulation of site-specific recombination events at the protein level in vivo. The ?C31 integrase was split into two extein domains, and intein sequences (Npu DnaEN and Ssp DnaEC) were attached to the two termini to be fused. Expression of these two components followed by post-translational protein trans-splicing in Escherichia coli generated a fully functional ?C31 integrase. We showed that protein splicing is necessary for recombination activity; deletion of intein domains or mutation of key intein residues inactivated recombination. We used an invertible promoter reporter system to demonstrate a potential application of the split intein-regulated site-specific recombination system in building reversible genetic switches. We used the same split inteins to control the reconstitution of a split Integrase-Recombination Directionality Factor fusion (Integrase-RDF) that efficiently catalysed the reverse attR x attL recombination. This demonstrates the potential for split-intein regulation of the forward and reverse reactions using the integrase and the integrase-RDF fusion, respectively. The split-intein integrase is a potentially versatile, regulatable component for building synthetic genetic circuits and devices.
Project description:Synthetic biology has developed numerous parts for building synthetic gene circuits. However, few parts have been described for prokaryotes to integrate two signals at a promoter in an AND fashion, i.e. the promoter is only activated in the presence of both signals. Here we present a new part for this function: a split intein T7 RNA polymerase. We divide T7 RNA polymerase into two expression domains and fuse each to a split intein. Only when both domains are expressed does the split intein mediate protein trans-splicing, yielding a full-length T7 RNA polymerase that can transcribe genes via a T7 promoter. We demonstrate an AND gate with the new part: the signal-to-background ratio is very high, resulting in an almost digital signal. This has utility for more complex circuits and so we construct a band-pass filter in Escherichia coli. The split intein approach should be widely applicable for engineering artificial gene circuit parts.
Project description:Conditional protein splicing is a powerful biotechnological tool that can be used to rapidly and post-translationally control the activity of a given protein. Here we demonstrate a novel conditional splicing system in which a genetically encoded protein scaffold induces the splicing and activation of an enzyme in mammalian cells. In this system the protein scaffold binds to two inactive split intein/enzyme extein protein fragments leading to intein fragment complementation, splicing, and activation of the firefly luciferase enzyme. We first demonstrate the ability of antiparallel coiled-coils (CCs) to mediate splicing between two intein fragments, effectively creating two new split inteins. We then generate and test two versions of the scaffold-induced splicing system using two pairs of CCs. Finally, we optimize the linker lengths of the proteins in the system and demonstrate 13-fold activation of luciferase by the scaffold compared to the activity of negative controls. Our protein scaffold-triggered conditional splicing system is an effective strategy to control enzyme activity using a protein input, enabling enhanced genetic control over protein splicing and the potential creation of splicing-based protein sensors and autoregulatory systems.
Project description:The ability to engineer biological circuits that process and respond to complex cellular signals has the potential to impact many areas of biology and medicine. Transcriptional activator-like effectors (TALEs) have emerged as an attractive component for engineering these circuits, as TALEs can be designed de novo to target a given DNA sequence. Currently, however, the use of TALEs is limited by degeneracy in the site-specific manner by which they recognize DNA. Here, we propose an algorithm to computationally address this problem. We apply our algorithm to design 180 TALEs targeting 20 bp cognate binding sites that are at least 3 nt mismatches away from all 20 bp sequences in putative 2 kb human promoter regions. We generated eight of these synthetic TALE activators and showed that each is able to activate transcription from a targeted reporter. Importantly, we show that these proteins do not activate synthetic reporters containing mismatches similar to those present in the genome nor a set of endogenous genes predicted to be the most likely targets in vivo. Finally, we generated and characterized TALE repressors comprised of our orthogonal DNA binding domains and further combined them with shRNAs to accomplish near complete repression of target gene expression.
Project description:Simple and predictable trans-acting regulatory tools are needed in the fields of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering to build complex genetic circuits and optimize the levels of native and heterologous gene products. Transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) are bacterial virulence factors that have recently gained traction in biotechnology applications owing to their customizable DNA-binding specificity. In this work we expanded the versatility of these transcription factors to create an inducible TALE system by inserting tobacco-etch virus (TEV) protease recognition sites into the TALE backbone. The resulting engineered TALEs maintain transcriptional repression of their target genes in Escherichia coli, but are degraded after induction of the TEV protease, thereby promoting expression of the previously repressed target gene of interest. This TALE-TEV technology enables both repression and induction of plasmid or chromosomal target genes in a manner analogous to traditional repressor proteins but with the added flexibility of being operator-agnostic.
Project description:Inspired by the biosynthetic logic of lanthipeptide natural products, a new methodology was developed to direct the ribosomal synthesis of macrocyclic peptides constrained by an intramolecular thioether bond. As a first step, a robust and versatile strategy was implemented to enable the cyclization of ribosomally derived peptide sequences via a chemoselective reaction between a genetically encoded cysteine and a cysteine-reactive unnatural amino acid (O-(2-bromoethyl)-tyrosine). Combination of this approach with intein-catalyzed protein splicing furnished an efficient route to achieve the spontaneous, post-translational formation of structurally diverse macrocyclic peptides in bacterial cells. The present peptide cyclization strategy was also found to be amenable to integration with split intein-mediated circular ligation, resulting in the intracellular synthesis of conformationally constrained peptides featuring a bicyclic architecture.