The revolution of genomics and growth of systems biology urged the creation of synthetic biology, an engineering discipline aiming at recreating and reprogramming cellular functions for industrial needs. There has been a huge effort in synthetic biology to develop versatile and programmable genetic regulators that would enable the precise control of gene expression. Synthetic RNA components have emerged as a solution, offering a diverse range of programmable functions, including signal sensing, gene regulation and the modulation of molecular interactions. Owing to their compactness, structure and way of action, several types of RNA devices that act on DNA, RNA and protein have been characterized and applied in synthetic biology. RNA-based approaches are more ‘economical' for the cell, since they are generally not translated. These RNA-based strategies act on a much shorter time scale than transcription-based ones and can be more efficient than protein-based mechanisms. In this review, we explore these RNA components as building blocks in the RNA synthetic biology field, first by explaining their natural mode of action and secondly discussing how these RNA components have been exploited to rewire bacterial regulatory circuitry.

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