As the design of genetic circuitry for synthetic biology becomes more sophisticated, diverse regulatory bioparts are required. Despite their importance, well-characterized 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) bioparts are limited. Thus, transcript 3'-ends require further investigation to understand the underlying regulatory role and applications of the 3'-UTR. Here, we revisited the use of Term-Seq in the Escherichia coli strain K-12 MG1655 to enhance our understanding of 3'-UTR regulatory functions and to provide a diverse collection of tunable 3'-UTR bioparts with a wide termination strength range. Comprehensive analysis of 1,629 transcript 3'-end positions revealed multiple 3'-termini classes generated through transcription termination and RNA processing. The examination of individual Rho-independent terminators revealed a reduction in downstream gene expression over a wide range, which led to the design of novel synthetic metabolic valves that control metabolic fluxes in branched pathways. These synthetic metabolic valves determine the optimal balance of heterologous pathways for maximum target biochemical productivity. The regulatory strategy using 3'-UTR bioparts is advantageous over promoter- or 5'-UTR-based transcriptional control as it modulates gene expression at transcription levels without trans-acting element requirements (e.g. transcription factors). Our results provide a foundational platform for 3'-UTR engineering in synthetic biology applications.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.