Synthetic small RNA regulators have emerged as a versatile tool to predictably control bacterial gene expression. Owing to their simple design principles, small size, and highly orthogonal behavior, these engineered genetic parts have been incorporated into genetic circuits. However, efforts to achieve more sophisticated cellular functions using RNA regulators have been hindered by our limited ability to integrate different RNA regulators into complex circuits. Here, we present a combined RNA regulatory system in Escherichia coli that uses small transcription activating RNA (STAR) and antisense RNA (asRNA) to activate or deactivate target gene expression in a programmable manner. Specifically, we demonstrated that the activated target output by the STAR system can be deactivated by expressing two different types of asRNAs: one binds to and sequesters the STAR regulator, affecting the transcription process, while the other binds to the target mRNA, affecting the translation process. We improved deactivation efficiencies (up to 96%) by optimizing each type of asRNA and then integrating the two optimized asRNAs into a single circuit. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the combined STAR and asRNA system can control gene expression in a reversible way and can regulate expression of a gene in the genome. Lastly, we constructed and simultaneously tested two A AND NOT B logic gates in the same cell to show sophisticated multigene regulation by the combined system. Our approach establishes a methodology for integrating multiple RNA regulators to rationally control multiple genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-865
Number of pages13
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 16 2018


  • antisense RNA
  • genetic circuits
  • RNA regulator
  • STAR
  • synthetic biology


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