CRISPR-RNAa: targeted activation of translation using dCas13 fusions to translation initiation factors

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Aug 26;50(15):8986-8998. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkac680.


Tools for synthetically controlling gene expression are a cornerstone of genetic engineering. CRISPRi and CRISPRa technologies have been applied extensively for programmable modulation of gene transcription, but there are few such tools for targeted modulation of protein translation rates. Here, we employ CRISPR-Cas13 as a programmable activator of translation. We develop a novel variant of the catalytically-deactivated Cas13d enzyme dCasRx by fusing it to translation initiation factor IF3. We demonstrate dCasRx-IF3's ability to enhance expression 21.3-fold above dCasRx when both are targeted to the start of the 5' untranslated region of mRNA encoding red fluorescent protein in Escherichia coli. Activation of translation is location-dependent, and we show dCasRx-IF3 represses translation when targeted to the ribosomal binding site, rather than enhancing it. We provide evidence that dCasRx-IF3 targeting enhances mRNA stability relative to dCasRx, providing mechanistic insights into how this new tool functions to enhance gene expression. We also demonstrate targeted upregulation of native LacZ 2.6-fold, showing dCasRx-IF3's ability to enhance expression of endogenous genes. dCasRx-IF3 requires no additional host modification to influence gene expression. This work outlines a novel approach, CRISPR-RNAa, for post-transcriptional control of translation to activate gene expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins* / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins* / metabolism
  • Peptide Initiation Factors* / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Initiation Factor-3 / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / genetics
  • Ribosomes / metabolism


  • Prokaryotic Initiation Factor-3
  • Peptide Initiation Factors
  • Escherichia coli Proteins