Amplification of small molecule-inducible gene expression via tuning of intracellular receptor densities

Baojun Wang, Mauricio Barahona, Martin Buck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Ligand-responsive transcription factors in prokaryotes found simple small molecule-inducible gene expression systems. These have been extensively used for regulated protein production and associated biosynthesis of fine chemicals. However, the promoter and protein engineering approaches traditionally used often pose significant restrictions to predictably and rapidly tune the expression profiles of inducible expression systems. Here, we present a new unified and rational tuning method to amplify the sensitivity and dynamic ranges of versatile small molecule-inducible expression systems. We employ a systematic variation of the concentration of intracellular receptors for transcriptional control. We show that a low density of the repressor receptor (e.g. TetR and ArsR) in the cell can significantly increase the sensitivity and dynamic range, whereas a high activator receptor (e.g. LuxR) density achieves the same outcome. The intracellular concentration of receptors can be tuned in both discrete and continuous modes by adjusting the strength of their cognate driving promoters. We exemplified this approach in several synthetic receptor-mediated sensing circuits, including a tunable cell-based arsenic sensor. The approach offers a new paradigm to predictably tune and amplify ligand-responsive gene expression with potential applications in synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1955-1964
Number of pages10
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2015


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