Precise tuning of gene expression output levels in mammalian cells
Michaels Y., Barnkob M., Barbosa H., Baeumler T., Thompson M., Andre V., Colin-York H., Fritzsche M., Gileadi U., Sheppard H., Knapp DJHF., Milne T., Cerundolo V., Fulga T.
Precise, analogue regulation of gene expression is critical for development, homeostasis and regeneration in mammals. In contrast, widely employed experimental and therapeutic approaches such as knock-in/out strategies are more suitable for binary control of gene activity, while RNA interference (RNAi) can lead to pervasive off-target effects and unpredictable levels of repression. Here we report on a method for the precise control of gene expression levels in mammalian cells based on engineered, synthetic microRNA response elements (MREs). To develop this system, we established a high-throughput sequencing approach for measuring the efficacy of thousands of miR-17 MRE variants. This allowed us to create a library of microRNA silencing-mediated fine-tuners (miSFITs) of varying strength that can be employed to control the expression of user specified genes. To demonstrate the value of this technology, we used a panel of miSFITs to tune the expression of a peptide antigen in a mouse melanoma model. This analysis revealed that antigen expression level is a key determinant of the anti-tumour immune response in vitro and in vivo. miSFITs are a powerful tool for modulating gene expression output levels with applications in research and cellular engineering.