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Nat Methods. 2016 Nov;13(11):938-944. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3994. Epub 2016 Sep 5.

Directing cellular information flow via CRISPR signal conductors.

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State Engineering Laboratory of Medical Key Technologies Application of Synthetic Biology, Shenzhen Second People's Hospital, the First Affiliated Hospital of Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China.


The complex phenotypes of eukaryotic cells are controlled by decision-making circuits and signaling pathways. A key obstacle to implementing artificial connections in signaling networks has been the lack of synthetic devices for efficient sensing, processing and control of biological signals. By extending sgRNAs to include modified riboswitches that recognize specific signals, we can create CRISPR-Cas9-based 'signal conductors' that regulate transcription of endogenous genes in response to external or internal signals of interest. These devices can be used to construct all the basic types of Boolean logic gates that perform logical signal operations in mammalian cells without needing the layering of multiple genetic circuits. They can also be used to rewire cellular signaling events by constructing synthetic links that couple different signaling pathways. Moreover, this approach can be applied to redirect oncogenic signal transduction by controlling simultaneous bidirectional (ON-OFF) gene transcriptions, thus enabling reprogramming of the fate of cancer cells.

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