The precise control of gene expression is essential in basic biological research as well as in biotechnological applications. Most regulated systems available in yeast enable only the overexpression of the target gene, excluding the possibility of intermediate or weak expression. Moreover, these systems are frequently toxic or depend on growth conditions. We constructed a heterologous transcription factor that overcomes these limitations. Our system is a fusion of the bacterial LexA DNA-binding protein, the human estrogen receptor (ER) and an activation domain (AD). The activity of this chimera, called LexA-ER-AD, is tightly regulated by the hormone β-estradiol. The selection of the AD proved to be crucial to avoid toxic effects and to define the range of activity that can be precisely tuned with β-estradiol. As our system is based on a heterologous DNA-binding domain, induction in different metabolic contexts is possible. Additionally, by controlling the number of LexA-binding sites in the target promoter, one can scale the expression levels up or down. Overall, our LexA-ER-AD system is a valuable tool to precisely control gene expression in different experimental contexts without toxic side effects.
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.