Regulatory RNA-based interactions are critical for coordinating gene expression and are increasingly being targeted in synthetic biology, antimicrobial, and therapeutic fields. Bacterial trans-encoded small RNAs (sRNAs) regulate the translation and/or stability of mRNA targets through base-pairing interactions. These interactions are often integral to complex gene circuits which coordinate critical bacterial processes. The ability to predictably modulate these gene circuits has potential for reprogramming gene expression for synthetic biology and antibacterial purposes. Here, we present a novel pipeline for targeting such RNA-based interactions with antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) in order to reprogram gene expression. As proof-of-concept, we selected sRNA–mRNA interactions that are central to the Vibrio cholerae quorum sensing pathway, required for V. cholerae pathogenesis, as a regulatory RNA-based interaction input. We rationally designed anti-sRNA ASOs to target the sRNAs and synthesized them as peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). Next, we devised an RNA array-based interaction assay to allow screening of the anti-sRNA ASOs in vitro. Finally, an Escherichia coli-based gene expression reporter assay was developed and used to validate anti-sRNA ASO regulatory activity in a cellular environment. The output from the pipeline was an anti-sRNA ASO that targets sRNAs to inhibit sRNA–mRNA interactions and modulate gene expression. This anti-sRNA ASO has potential for reprogramming gene expression for synthetic biology and/or antibacterial purposes. We anticipate that this pipeline will find widespread use in fields targeting RNA-based interactions as modulators of gene expression.
- BB/ M020576/1