Complex transcriptional modulation with orthogonal and inducible dCas9 regulators

Nat Methods. 2016 Dec;13(12):1043-1049. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4042. Epub 2016 Oct 24.


The ability to dynamically manipulate the transcriptome is important for studying how gene networks direct cellular functions and how network perturbations cause disease. Nuclease-dead CRISPR-dCas9 transcriptional regulators, while offering an approach for controlling individual gene expression, remain incapable of dynamically coordinating complex transcriptional events. Here, we describe a flexible dCas9-based platform for chemical-inducible complex gene regulation. From a screen of chemical- and light-inducible dimerization systems, we identified two potent chemical inducers that mediate efficient gene activation and repression in mammalian cells. We combined these inducers with orthogonal dCas9 regulators to independently control expression of different genes within the same cell. Using this platform, we further devised AND, OR, NAND, and NOR dCas9 logic operators and a diametric regulator that activates gene expression with one inducer and represses with another. This work provides a robust CRISPR-dCas9-based platform for enacting complex transcription programs that is suitable for large-scale transcriptome engineering.

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Transcriptome*


  • CRISPR-Associated Proteins