Photochemical control of bacterial gene expression based on trans encoded genetic switches†
Controlling gene expression by light with fine spatiotemporal resolution not only allows understanding and manipulating fundamental biological processes but also fuels the development of novel therapeutic strategies. In complement to exploiting optogenetic tools, photochemical strategies mostly rely on the incorporation of photo-responsive small molecules into the corresponding biomacromolecular scaffolds. Therefore, generally large synthetic effort is required and the switching of gene expression in both directions within a single system remains a challenge. Here, we report a trans encoded ribo-switch, which consists of an engineered tRNA mimicking structure (TMS), under control of small photo-switchable signalling molecules. The signalling molecules consist of two amino glycoside molecules that are connected via an azobenzene unit. The light responsiveness of our system originates from the photo-switchable noncovalent interactions between the signalling molecule and the TMS switch, leading to the demonstration of photochemically controlled expression of two different genes. We believe that this modular design will provide a powerful platform for controlling the expression of other functional proteins with high spatiotemporal resolution employing light as a stimulus.