Directed evolution of promoters and tandem gene arrays for customizing RNA synthesis rates and regulation

Keith E.J. Tyo, Elke Nevoigt, Gregory Stephanopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Manipulating RNA synthesis rates is a primary method the cell uses to adjust its physiological state. Therefore to design synthetic genetic networks and circuits, precise control of RNA synthesis rates is of the utmost importance. Often, however, a native promoter does not exist that has the precise characteristics required for a given application. Here, we describe two methods to change the rates and regulation of RNA synthesis in cells to create RNA synthesis of a desired specification. First, error-prone PCR is discussed for diversifying the properties of native promoters, that is, changing the rate of synthesis in constitutive promoters and the induction properties for an inducible promoter. Specifically, we describe techniques for generating diversified promoter libraries of the constitutive promoters PLtetO-1 in Escherichia coli and TEF1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae as well as the inducible, oxygen-repressed promoter DAN1 in S. cerevisiae. Beyond generating promoter libraries, we discuss techniques to quantify the parameters of each new promoter. Promoter characteristics for each promoter in hand, the designer can then pick and choose the promoters needed for the specific genetic circuit described in silico. Second, Chemically Induced Chromosomal Evolution (CIChE) is presented as an alternative method to finely adjust RNA synthesis rates in E. coli by variation of gene cassette copy numbers in tandem gene arrays. Both techniques result in precisely defined RNA synthesis and should be of great utility in synthetic biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-155
Number of pages21
JournalMethods in enzymology
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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