Modular construction of mammalian gene circuits using TALE transcriptional repressors.
ABSTRACT: An important goal of synthetic biology is the rational design and predictable implementation of synthetic gene circuits using standardized and interchangeable parts. However, engineering of complex circuits in mammalian cells is currently limited by the availability of well-characterized and orthogonal transcriptional repressors. Here, we introduce a library of 26 reversible transcription activator-like effector repressors (TALERs) that bind newly designed hybrid promoters and exert transcriptional repression through steric hindrance of key transcriptional initiation elements. We demonstrate that using the input-output transfer curves of our TALERs enables accurate prediction of the behavior of modularly assembled TALER cascade and switch circuits. We also show that TALER switches using feedback regulation exhibit improved accuracy for microRNA-based HeLa cancer cell classification versus HEK293 cells. Our TALER library is a valuable toolkit for modular engineering of synthetic circuits, enabling programmable manipulation of mammalian cells and helping elucidate design principles of coupled transcriptional and microRNA-mediated post-transcriptional regulation.
Project description:Traditionally engineered genetic circuits have almost exclusively used naturally occurring transcriptional repressors. Recently, non-natural transcription factors (repressors) have been engineered and employed in synthetic biology with great success. However, transcriptional anti-repressors have largely been absent with regard to the regulation of genes in engineered genetic circuits. Here, we present a workflow for engineering systems of non-natural anti-repressors. In this study, we create 41 inducible anti-repressors. This collection of transcription factors respond to two distinct ligands, fructose (anti-FruR) or D-ribose (anti-RbsR); and were complemented by 14 additional engineered anti-repressors that respond to the ligand isopropyl ?-d-1-thiogalactopyranoside (anti-LacI). In turn, we use this collection of anti-repressors and complementary genetic architectures to confer logical control over gene expression. Here, we achieved all NOT oriented logical controls (i.e., NOT, NOR, NAND, and XNOR). The engineered transcription factors and corresponding series, parallel, and series-parallel genetic architectures represent a nascent anti-repressor based transcriptional programming structure.
Project description:Genetic circuits perform computational operations based on interactions between freely diffusing molecules within a cell. When transcription factors are combined to build a circuit, unintended interactions can disrupt its function. Here, we apply 'part mining' to build a library of 73 TetR-family repressors gleaned from prokaryotic genomes. The operators of a subset were determined using an in vitro method, and this information was used to build synthetic promoters. The promoters and repressors were screened for cross-reactions. Of these, 16 were identified that both strongly repress their cognate promoter (5- to 207-fold) and exhibit minimal interactions with other promoters. Each repressor-promoter pair was converted to a NOT gate and characterized. Used as a set of 16 NOT/NOR gates, there are >10(54) circuits that could be built by changing the pattern of input and output promoters. This represents a large set of compatible gates that can be used to construct user-defined circuits.
Project description:Introduction:Controlling gene expression is a fundamental goal of basic and synthetic biology because it allows insight into cellular function and control of cellular activity. We explored the possibility of generating an optogenetic repressor of gene expression in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae by using light to control the nuclear localization of nuclease-dead Cas9, dCas9. Methods:The dCas9 protein acts as a repressor for a gene of interest when localized to the nucleus in the presence of an appropriate guide RNA (sgRNA). We engineered dCas9, the mammalian transcriptional repressor Mxi1, and an optogenetic tool to control nuclear localization (LINuS) as parts in an existing yeast optogenetic toolkit. This allowed expression cassettes containing novel dCas9 repressor configurations and guide RNAs to be rapidly constructed and integrated into yeast. Results:Our library of repressors displays a range of basal repression without the need for inducers or promoter modification. Populations of cells containing these repressors can be combined to generate a heterogeneous population of yeast with a 100-fold expression range. We find that repression can be dialed modestly in a light dose- and intensity-dependent manner. We used this library to repress expression of the lanosterol 14-alpha-demethylase Erg11, generating yeast with a range of sensitivity to the important antifungal drug fluconazole. Conclusions:This toolkit will be useful for spatiotemporal perturbation of gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Additionally, we believe that the simplicity of our scheme will allow these repressors to be easily modified to control gene expression in medically relevant fungi, such as pathogenic yeasts.
Project description:The discovery and adaption of bacterial clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated (Cas) systems has revolutionized the way researchers edit genomes. Engineering of catalytically inactivated Cas variants (nuclease-deficient or nuclease-deactivated [dCas]) combined with transcriptional repressors, activators, or epigenetic modifiers enable sequence-specific regulation of gene expression and chromatin state. These CRISPR-Cas-based technologies have contributed to the rapid development of disease models and functional genomics screening approaches, which can facilitate genetic target identification and drug discovery. In this short review, we will cover recent advances of CRISPR-dCas9 systems and their use for transcriptional repression and activation, epigenome editing, and engineered synthetic circuits for complex control of the mammalian genome.
Project description:Transcriptional repressors provide widespread biological significance in the regulation of gene expression. However, in prokaryotes, it is particularly difficult to find transcriptional repressors that recognize specific target promoters on genome-scale. To address this need, a genetic biosensor for identifying repressors of target promoters was developed in Escherichia coli from a de novo designed genetic circuit. This circuit can convert the negative input of repressors into positive output of reporters, thereby facilitating the selection and identification of repressors. After evaluating the sensitivity and bias, the biosensor was used to identify the repressors of scbA and aco promoters (PscbA and Paco), which control the transcription of signalling molecule synthase genes in Streptomyces coelicolor and Streptomyces avermitilis, respectively. Two previously unknown repressors of PscbA were identified from a library of TetR family regulators in S. coelicolor, and three novel repressors of Paco were identified from a genomic library of S. avermitilis. Further in vivo and in vitro experiments confirmed that these newly identified repressors attenuated the transcription of their target promoters by direct binding. Overall, the genetic biosensor developed here presents an innovative and powerful strategy that could be applied for identifying genome-wide unknown repressors of promoters in bacteria.
Project description:The construction of synthetic gene circuits relies on our ability to engineer regulatory architectures that are orthogonal to the host's native regulatory pathways. However, as synthetic gene circuits become larger and more complicated, we are limited by the small number of parts, especially transcription factors, that work well in the context of the circuit. The current repertoire of transcription factors consists of a limited selection of activators and repressors, making the implementation of transcriptional logic a complicated and component-intensive process. To address this, we modified bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase (T7 RNAP) to create a library of transcriptional AND gates for use in Escherichia coli by first splitting the protein and then mutating the DNA recognition domain of the C-terminal fragment to alter its promoter specificity. We first demonstrate that split T7 RNAP is active in vivo and compare it with full-length enzyme. We then create a library of mutant split T7 RNAPs that have a range of activities when used in combination with a complimentary set of altered T7-specific promoters. Finally, we assay the two-input function of both wild-type and mutant split T7 RNAPs and find that regulated expression of the N- and C-terminal fragments of the split T7 RNAPs creates AND logic in each case. This work demonstrates that mutant split T7 RNAP can be used as a transcriptional AND gate and introduces a unique library of components for use in synthetic gene circuits.
Project description:Efforts to construct synthetic biological circuits with more complex functions have often been hindered by the idiosyncratic behavior, limited dynamic range and crosstalk of commonly utilized parts. Here, we employ de novo RNA design to develop two high-performance translational repressors with sensing and logic capabilities. These synthetic riboregulators, termed toehold repressors and three-way junction (3WJ) repressors, detect transcripts with nearly arbitrary sequences, repress gene expression by up to 300-fold and yield orthogonal sets of up to 15 devices. Automated forward engineering is used to improve toehold repressor dynamic range and SHAPE-Seq is applied to confirm the designed switching mechanism of 3WJ repressors in living cells. We integrate the modular repressors into biological circuits that execute universal NAND and NOR logic and evaluate the four-input expression NOT ((A1 AND A2) OR (B1 AND B2)) in Escherichia coli. These capabilities make toehold and 3WJ repressors valuable new tools for biotechnological applications.
Project description:Synthetic biology has seen an explosive growth in the capability of engineering artificial gene circuits from transcription factors (TFs), particularly in bacteria. However, most artificial networks still employ the same core set of TFs (for example LacI, TetR and cI). The TFs mostly function via repression and it is difficult to integrate multiple inputs in promoter logic. Here we present to our knowledge the first set of dual activator-repressor switches for orthogonal logic gates, based on bacteriophage ? cI variants and multi-input promoter architectures. Our toolkit contains 12 TFs, flexibly operating as activators, repressors, dual activator-repressors or dual repressor-repressors, on up to 270 synthetic promoters. To engineer non cross-reacting cI variants, we design a new M13 phagemid-based system for the directed evolution of biomolecules. Because cI is used in so many synthetic biology projects, the new set of variants will easily slot into the existing projects of other groups, greatly expanding current engineering capacities.
Project description:Engineering allosteric transcriptional repressors containing an environmental sensing module (ESM) and a DNA recognition module (DRM) has the potential to unlock a combinatorial set of rationally designed biological responses. We demonstrated that constructing hybrid repressors by fusing distinct ESMs and DRMs provides a means to flexibly rewire genetic networks for complex signal processing. We have used coevolutionary traits among LacI homologs to develop a model for predicting compatibility between ESMs and DRMs. Our predictions accurately agree with the performance of 40 engineered repressors. We have harnessed this framework to develop a system of multiple toggle switches with a master OFF signal that produces a unique behavior: each engineered biological activity is switched to a stable ON state by different chemicals and returned to OFF in response to a common signal. One promising application of this design is to develop living diagnostics for monitoring multiple parameters in complex physiological environments and it represents one of many circuit topologies that can be explored with modular repressors designed with coevolutionary information.
Project description:Tissue-specific gene expression is often thought to arise from spatially restricted transcriptional cascades. However, it is unclear how expression is established at the top of these cascades in the absence of pre-existing specificity. We generated a transcriptional network to explore how transcription factor expression is established in the Arabidopsis thaliana root ground tissue. Regulators of the SHORTROOT-SCARECROW transcriptional cascade were validated in planta. At the top of this cascade, we identified both activators and repressors of SHORTROOT. The aggregate spatial expression of these regulators is not sufficient to predict transcriptional specificity. Instead, modeling, transcriptional reporters, and synthetic promoters support a mechanism whereby expression at the top of the SHORTROOT-SCARECROW cascade is established through opposing activities of activators and repressors.