A key driver of synthetic biology is the development of designable genetic parts with predictable behaviors that can be quickly implemented in complex genetic systems. However, the intrinsic complexity of gene regulation can make the rational design of genetic parts challenging. This challenge is apparent in the design of antisense RNA (asRNA) regulators. Though asRNAs are well-known regulators, the literature governing their design is conflicting and leaves the synthetic biology community without clear asRNA design rules. The goal of this study is to perform a comprehensive experimental characterization and statistical analysis of 121 unique asRNA regulators in order to resolve the conflicts that currently exist in the literature. asRNAs usually consist of two regions, the Hfq binding site and the target binding region (TBR). First, the behaviors of several high-performing Hfq binding sites were compared, in terms of their ability to improve repression efficiencies and their orthogonality. Next, a large-scale analysis of TBR design parameters identified asRNA length, the thermodynamics of asRNA-mRNA complex formation, and the percent of target mismatch as key parameters for TBR design. These parameters were used to develop simple asRNA design rules. Finally, these design rules were applied to construct both a simple and a complex genetic circuit containing different asRNAs, and predictable behavior was observed in both circuits. The results presented in this study will drive synthetic biology forward by providing useful design guidelines for the construction of asRNA regulators with predictable behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1454
Number of pages14
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 16 2016


  • antisense RNA
  • gene repression
  • genetic circuit
  • RNA regulator
  • RNA synthetic biology


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