Applied and environmental microbiology

Inducible suppression of global translation by overuse of rare codons.

PMID 25636849


Recently, artificial gene networks have been developed in synthetic biology to control gene expression and make organisms as controllable as robots. Here, I present an artificial posttranslational gene-silencing system based on the codon usage bias and low tRNA content corresponding to minor codons. I engineered the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene to inhibit translation indirectly with the lowest-usage codons to monopolize various minor tRNAs (lgfp). The expression of lgfp interfered nonspecifically with the growth of Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, human HeLa cervical cancer cells, MCF7 breast cancer cells, and HEK293 kidney cells, as well as phage and adenovirus expansion. Furthermore, insertion of lgfp downstream of a phage response promoter conferred phage resistance on E. coli. Such engineered gene silencers could act as components of biological networks capable of functioning with suitable promoters in E. coli, S. cerevisiae, and human cells to control gene expression. The results presented here show general suppressor artificial genes for live cells and viruses. This robust system provides a gene expression or cell growth control device for artificially synthesized gene networks.