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PLoS One. 2008 Apr 30;3(4):e2030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002030.

Uncovering cis regulatory codes using synthetic promoter shuffling.

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  • 1Laboratory of Living Matter and Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York, United States of America.


Revealing the spectrum of combinatorial regulation of transcription at individual promoters is essential for understanding the complex structure of biological networks. However, the computations represented by the integration of various molecular signals at complex promoters are difficult to decipher in the absence of simple cis regulatory codes. Here we synthetically shuffle the regulatory architecture--operator sequences binding activators and repressors--of a canonical bacterial promoter. The resulting library of complex promoters allows for rapid exploration of promoter encoded logic regulation. Among all possible logic functions, NOR and ANDN promoter encoded logics predominate. A simple transcriptional cis regulatory code determines both logics, establishing a straightforward map between promoter structure and logic phenotype. The regulatory code is determined solely by the type of transcriptional regulation combinations: two repressors generate a NOR: NOT (a OR b) whereas a repressor and an activator generate an ANDN: a AND NOT b. Three-input versions of both logics, having an additional repressor as an input, are also present in the library. The resulting complex promoters cover a wide dynamic range of transcriptional strengths. Synthetic promoter shuffling represents a fast and efficient method for exploring the spectrum of complex regulatory functions that can be encoded by complex promoters. From an engineering point of view, synthetic promoter shuffling enables the experimental testing of the functional properties of complex promoters that cannot necessarily be inferred ab initio from the known properties of the individual genetic components. Synthetic promoter shuffling may provide a useful experimental tool for studying naturally occurring promoter shuffling.

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