• Distinct timescales of RNA regulators enable the construction of a genetic pulse generator.

      Westbrook, Alexandra; Tang, Xun; Marshall, Ryan; Maxwell, Colin S; Chappell, James; Agrawal, Deepak K; Dunlop, Mary J; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; Lucks, Julius; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-01-13)
      To build complex genetic networks with predictable behaviours, synthetic biologists use libraries of modular parts that can be characterized in isolation and assembled together to create programmable higher-order functions. Characterization experiments and computational models for gene regulatory parts operating in isolation are routinely employed to predict the dynamics of interconnected parts and guide the construction of new synthetic devices. Here, we individually characterize two modes of RNA-based transcriptional regulation, using small transcription activating RNAs (STARs) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi), and show how their distinct regulatory timescales can be used to engineer a composed feedforward loop that creates a pulse of gene expression. We use a cell-free transcription-translation system (TXTL) to rapidly characterize the system, and we apply Bayesian inference to extract kinetic parameters for an ODE-based mechanistic model. We then demonstrate in simulation and verify with TXTL experiments that the simultaneous regulation of a single gene target with STARs and CRISPRi leads to a pulse of gene expression. Our results suggest the modularity of the two regulators in an integrated genetic circuit, and we anticipate that construction and modelling frameworks that can leverage this modularity will become increasingly important as synthetic circuits increase in complexity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    • Plugging Small RNAs into the Network.

      Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (ASM, 2020-06-02)
      Small RNAs (sRNAs) have been discovered in every bacterium examined and have been shown to play important roles in the regulation of a diverse range of behaviors, from metabolism to infection. However, despite a wide range of available techniques for discovering and validating sRNA regulatory interactions, only a minority of these molecules have been well characterized. In part, this is due to the nature of posttranscriptional regulation: the activity of an sRNA depends on the state of the transcriptome as a whole, so characterization is best carried out under the conditions in which it is naturally active. In this issue of mSystems, Arrieta-Ortiz and colleagues (M. L. Arrieta-Ortiz, C. Hafemeister, B. Shuster, N. S. Baliga, et al., mSystems 5:e00057-20, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00057-20) present a network inference approach based on estimating sRNA activity across transcriptomic compendia. This shows promise not only for identifying new sRNA regulatory interactions but also for pinpointing the conditions in which these interactions occur, providing a new avenue toward functional characterization of sRNAs.
    • The World of Stable Ribonucleoproteins and Its Mapping With Grad-Seq and Related Approaches.

      Gerovac, Milan; Vogel, Jörg; Smirnov, Alexandre; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-04-07)
      Macromolecular complexes of proteins and RNAs are essential building blocks of cells. These stable supramolecular particles can be viewed as minimal biochemical units whose structural organization, i.e., the way the RNA and the protein interact with each other, is directly linked to their biological function. Whether those are dynamic regulatory ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) or integrated molecular machines involved in gene expression, the comprehensive knowledge of these units is critical to our understanding of key molecular mechanisms and cell physiology phenomena. Such is the goal of diverse complexomic approaches and in particular of the recently developed gradient profiling by sequencing (Grad-seq). By separating cellular protein and RNA complexes on a density gradient and quantifying their distributions genome-wide by mass spectrometry and deep sequencing, Grad-seq charts global landscapes of native macromolecular assemblies. In this review, we propose a function-based ontology of stable RNPs and discuss how Grad-seq and related approaches transformed our perspective of bacterial and eukaryotic ribonucleoproteins by guiding the discovery of new RNA-binding proteins and unusual classes of noncoding RNAs. We highlight some methodological aspects and developments that permit to further boost the power of this technique and to look for exciting new biology in understudied and challenging biological models.