Regulation of Bacterial Gene Expression by Protease-Alleviated Spatial Sequestration (PASS)

Ragan A. Pitner, Andrew H. Scarpelli, Joshua N. Leonard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In natural microbial systems, conditional spatial sequestration of transcription factors enables cells to respond rapidly to changes in their environment or intracellular state by releasing presynthesized regulatory proteins. Although such a mechanism may be useful for engineering synthetic biology technologies ranging from cell-based biosensors to biosynthetic platforms, to date it remains unknown how or whether such conditional spatial sequestration may be engineered. In particular, based upon seemingly contradictory reports in the literature, it is not clear whether subcellular spatial localization of a transcription factor within the cytoplasm is sufficient to preclude regulation of cognate promoters on plasmid-borne or chromosomal loci. Here, we describe a modular, orthogonal platform for investigating and implementing this mechanism using protease-alleviated spatial sequestration (PASS). In this system, expression of an exogenous protease mediates the proteolytic release of engineered transcriptional regulators from the inner face of the Escherichia coli cytoplasmic membrane. We demonstrate that PASS mediates robust, conditional regulation of either transcriptional repression, via tetR, or transcriptional activation, by the CI phage CI protein. This work provides new insights into a biologically important facet of microbial gene expression and establishes a new strategy for engineering conditional transcriptional regulation for the microbial synthetic biology toolbox.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)966-974
Number of pages9
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 18 2015


  • gene regulation
  • microbiology
  • signaling
  • subcellular organization
  • transcription factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Regulation of Bacterial Gene Expression by Protease-Alleviated Spatial Sequestration (PASS)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this