The ability to control the level of gene expression is a major quest in biology. A widely used approach employs deletion of a nonessential gene of interest (knockout), or multi-step recombineering to move a gene of interest under a repressible promoter (knockdown). However, these genetic methods are laborious, and limited for quantitative study. Here, we report a tunable CRISPR-cas system, “tCRISPRi”, for precise and continuous titration of gene expression by more than 30-fold. Our tCRISPRi system employs various previous advancements into a single strain: (1) We constructed a new strain containing a tunable arabinose operon promoter PBAD to quantitatively control the expression of CRISPR-(d)Cas protein over two orders of magnitude in a plasmid-free system. (2) tCRISPRi is reversible, and gene expression is repressed under knockdown conditions. (3) tCRISPRi shows significantly less than 10% leaky expression. (4) Most important from a practical perspective, construction of tCRISPRi to target a new gene requires only one-step of oligo recombineering. Our results show that tCRISPRi, in combination with recombineering, provides a simple and easy-to-implement tool for gene expression control, and is ideally suited for construction of both individual strains and high-throughput tunable knockdown libraries.



For strains used in this study, see our Addgene page.

The paper describing the details can be downloaded here.