De-Novo-Designed Translational Repressors for Multi-Input Cellular Logic

Jongmin Kim, Yu Zhou, Paul Carlson, Mario Teichmann, Friedrich C. Simmel, Pamela A. Silver, James J. Collins, Julius B. Lucks, Peng Yin*, Alexander A. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic biology aims to apply engineering principles toward the development of novel biological systems for biotechnology and medicine. Despite efforts to expand the set of high-performing parts for genetic circuits, achieving more complex circuit functions has often been limited by the idiosyncratic nature and crosstalk of commonly utilized parts. Here, we present a molecular programming strategy that implements RNA-based repression of translation using de-novo-designed RNAs to realize high-performance orthogonal parts with mRNA detection and multi-input logic capabilities. These synthetic post-transcriptional regulators, termed toehold repressors and three-way junction (3WJ) repressors, efficiently suppress translation in response to cognate trigger RNAs with nearly arbitrary sequences using thermodynamically and kinetically favorable linear-linear RNA interactions. Automated in silico optimization of thermodynamic parameters yields improved toehold repressors with up to 300-fold repression, while in-cell SHAPE-Seq measurements of 3WJ repressors confirm their designed switching mechanism in living cells. Leveraging the absence of sequence constraints, we identify eight- and 15-component sets of toehold and 3WJ repressors, respectively, that provide high orthogonality. The modularity, wide dynamic range, and low crosstalk of the repressors enable their direct integration into ribocomputing devices that provide universal NAND and NOR logic capabilities and can perform multi-input RNA-based logic. We demonstrate these capabilities by implementing a four-input NAND gate and the expression NOT((A1 AND A2) OR (B1 AND B2)) in Escherichia coli. These features make toehold and 3WJ repressors important new classes of translational regulators for biotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Dec 19 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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