The centrality of RNA for engineering gene expression

James Chappell, Melissa K. Takahashi, Sarai Meyer, David Loughrey, Kyle E. Watters, Julius Lucks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Synthetic biology holds promise as both a framework for rationally engineering biological systems and a way to revolutionize how we fundamentally understand them. Essential to realizing this promise is the development of strategies and tools to reliably and predictably control and characterize sophisticated patterns of gene expression. Here we review the role that RNA can play towards this goal and make a case for why this versatile, designable, and increasingly characterizable molecule is one of the most powerful substrates for engineering gene expression at our disposal. We discuss current natural and synthetic RNA regulators of gene expression acting at key points of control - transcription, mRNA degradation, and translation. We also consider RNA structural probing and computational RNA structure predication tools as a way to study RNA structure and ultimately function. Finally, we discuss how next-generation sequencing methods are being applied to the study of RNA and to the characterization of RNA's many properties throughout the cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1395
Number of pages17
JournalBiotechnology Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Gene regulation
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Non-coding RNA
  • RNA structure
  • Synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine


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