Programmable control of bacterial gene expression with the combined CRISPR and antisense RNA system

Young Je Lee, Allison Hoynes-O'Connor, Matthew C. Leong, Tae Seok Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


A central goal of synthetic biology is to implement diverse cellular functions by predictably controlling gene expression. Though research has focused more on protein regulators than RNA regulators, recent advances in our understanding of RNA folding and functions have motivated the use of RNA regulators. RNA regulators provide an advantage because they are easier to design and engineer than protein regulators, potentially have a lower burden on the cell and are highly orthogonal. Here, we combine the CRISPR system from Streptococcus pyogenes and synthetic antisense RNAs (asRNAs) in Escherichia coli strains to repress or derepress a target gene in a programmable manner. Specifically, we demonstrate for the first time that the gene target repressed by the CRISPR system can be derepressed by expressing an asRNA that sequesters a small guide RNA (sgRNA). Furthermore, we demonstrate that tunable levels of derepression can be achieved (up to 95%) by designing asRNAs that target different regions of a sgRNA and by altering the hybridization free energy of the sgRNA-asRNA complex. This new system, which we call the combined CRISPR and asRNA system, can be used to reversibly repress or derepress multiple target genes simultaneously, allowing for rational reprogramming of cellular functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2462-2473
Number of pages12
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 2 2016


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