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Regulation of Gene Expression in Diverse Cyanobacterial Species by Using Theophylline-Responsive Riboswitches


Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria that are currently being developed as biological production platforms. They derive energy from light and carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide, and some species can fix atmospheric nitrogen. One advantage of developing cyanobacteria for renewable production of biofuels and other biological products is that they are amenable to genetic manipulation, facilitating bioengineering and synthetic biology. To expand the currently available genetic toolkit, we have demonstrated the utility of synthetic theophylline-responsive riboswitches for effective regulation of gene expression in four diverse species of cyanobacteria, including two recent isolates. We evaluated a set of six riboswitches driving the expression of a yellow fluorescent protein reporter in Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, Leptolyngbya sp. strain BL0902, Anabaena sp. strain PCC 7120, and Synechocystis sp. strain WHSyn. We demonstrated that riboswitches can offer regulation of gene expression superior to that of the commonly used isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside induction of a lacI(q)-Ptrc promoter system. We also showed that expression of the toxic protein SacB can be effectively regulated, demonstrating utility for riboswitch regulation of proteins that are detrimental to biomass accumulation. Taken together, the results of this work demonstrate the utility and ease of use of riboswitches in the context of genetic engineering and synthetic biology in diverse cyanobacteria, which will facilitate the development of algal biotechnology.

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