Combinatorial engineering of intergenic regions in operons tunes expression of multiple genes

Nat Biotechnol. 2006 Aug;24(8):1027-32. doi: 10.1038/nbt1226. Epub 2006 Jul 16.


Many applications of synthetic biology require the balanced expression of multiple genes. Although operons facilitate coordinated expression of multiple genes in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, coordinating the many post-transcriptional processes that determine the relative levels of gene expression in operons by a priori design remains a challenge. We describe a method for tuning the expression of multiple genes within operons by generating libraries of tunable intergenic regions (TIGRs), recombining various post-transcriptional control elements and screening for the desired relative expression levels. TIGRs can vary the relative expression of two reporter genes over a 100-fold range and balance expression of three genes in an operon that encodes a heterologous mevalonate biosynthetic pathway, resulting in a sevenfold increase in mevalonate production. This technology should be useful for optimizing the expression of multiple genes in synthetic operons, both in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics*
  • Gene Expression / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Gene Library*
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Operon / genetics*


  • DNA, Intergenic