Cell-specific regulation of gene expression using splicing-dependent frameshifting

Nat Commun. 2022 Oct 1;13(1):5773. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33523-2.


Precise and reliable cell-specific gene delivery remains technically challenging. Here we report a splicing-based approach for controlling gene expression whereby separate translational reading frames are coupled to the inclusion or exclusion of mutated, frameshifting cell-specific alternative exons. Candidate exons are identified by analyzing thousands of publicly available RNA sequencing datasets and filtering by cell specificity, conservation, and local intron length. This method, which we denote splicing-linked expression design (SLED), can be combined in a Boolean manner with existing techniques such as minipromoters and viral capsids. SLED can use strong constitutive promoters, without sacrificing precision, by decoupling the tradeoff between promoter strength and selectivity. AAV-packaged SLED vectors can selectively deliver fluorescent reporters and calcium indicators to various neuronal subtypes in vivo. We also demonstrate gene therapy utility by creating SLED vectors that can target PRPH2 and SF3B1 mutations. The flexibility of SLED technology enables creative avenues for basic and translational research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Calcium*
  • Exons / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Introns / genetics
  • RNA Splicing*


  • Calcium