Engineering Synthetic Gene Circuits in Living Cells with CRISPR Technology

Trends Biotechnol. 2016 Jul;34(7):535-547. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2015.12.014. Epub 2016 Jan 22.


One of the goals of synthetic biology is to build regulatory circuits that control cell behavior, for both basic research purposes and biomedical applications. The ability to build transcriptional regulatory devices depends on the availability of programmable, sequence-specific, and effective synthetic transcription factors (TFs). The prokaryotic clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) system, recently harnessed for transcriptional regulation in various heterologous host cells, offers unprecedented ease in designing synthetic TFs. We review how CRISPR can be used to build synthetic gene circuits and discuss recent advances in CRISPR-mediated gene regulation that offer the potential to build increasingly complex, programmable, and efficient gene circuits in the future.

Keywords: CRISPR–Cas9; gene circuits; synthetic biology; synthetic transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Gene Editing*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Gene Targeting*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Synthetic Biology / methods*