Cell-free optogenetic gene expression system.
Abstract: Optogenetic tools provide a new and efficient way to dynamically program gene expression with unmatched spatiotemporal precision. To date, its vast potential remains untapped in the field of cell-free synthetic biology, largely due to the lack of simple and efficient light-switchable systems. Here, to bridge the gap between cell-free systems and optogenetics, we studied our previously engineered one component-based blue light-inducible Escherichia coli promoter in a cell-free environment through experimental characterization and mathematical modelling. We achieved >10-fold dynamic expression and demonstrated rapid and reversible activation of target gene to generate oscillatory waveform. Deterministic model developed was able to recapitulate the system behaviour and helped to provide quantitative insights to optimize dynamic response. This in vitro optogenetic approach could be a powerful new high-throughput screening technology for rapid prototyping of complex biological networks in both space and time without the need for chemical induction.