CRISPR-based gene expression control for synthetic gene circuits

Biochem Soc Trans. 2020 Oct 30;48(5):1979-1993. doi: 10.1042/BST20200020.


Synthetic gene circuits allow us to govern cell behavior in a programmable manner, which is central to almost any application aiming to harness engineered living cells for user-defined tasks. Transcription factors (TFs) constitute the 'classic' tool for synthetic circuit construction but some of their inherent constraints, such as insufficient modularity, orthogonality and programmability, limit progress in such forward-engineering endeavors. Here we review how CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology offers new and powerful possibilities for synthetic circuit design. CRISPR systems offer superior characteristics over TFs in many aspects relevant to a modular, predictable and standardized circuit design. Thus, the choice of CRISPR technology as a framework for synthetic circuit design constitutes a valid alternative to complement or replace TFs in synthetic circuits and promises the realization of more ambitious designs.

Keywords: CRISPR; gene expression and regulation; synthetic biological circuits; synthetic biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Gene Editing
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genes, Synthetic*
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors