Synthetic Promoters offer Potential for High Levels of Gene Expression and Specificity
Synthetic promoters are DNA sequences that do not exist in nature and which are designed to regulate the activity of genes, controlling a gene’s ability to produce its own uniquely encoded protein. Currently, within the biotech industry, naturally occurring promoters are used to drive protein production. However, natural promoters have evolved for biological functions within the context of the organism in question, and as such they were not purpose-designed for applications within the biotech industry. Depending on the promoter and the specific application, natural promoters are not always able to drive a high level of gene expression and may also be lacking in the desired specificity.
Synpromics' Promoters are Novel and Patentable
The technology developed by Synpromics allows for the design of synthetic promoters that are optimally tailored to drive gene expression at the desired level and specificity. The technology leverages any given gene expression profile in any given cell in order to dictate the ultimate synthetic promoter design, and therefore the range of distinct and relevant synthetic promoters that the company can produce is essentially limitless. Importantly, as Synpromics’ promoters are man-made and the DNA sequences do not exist in nature, each one represents invention rather than discovery and hence can be patented, thus allowing the company to generate an extensive and continually expanding portfolio of commercially valuable patents.
What are DNA Promoters and why are they Important?
Promoters are sequences of DNA that sit beside each gene on the genome and whose function is to activate transcription, the initial process whereby protein is synthesised from the gene template. The promoter recruits a variety of other specialised proteins called transcription factors to enhance cis-regulatory elements in its sequence; this process changes the shape of the DNA and brings the activator proteins into contact with the general transcription machinery, thus initiating the process (see Figure 1 depicting the structure of a promoter).
Figure 1: Structure of a Promoter
After a gene is transcribed in this manner the resultant transcript can then be translated into the specific protein that it encodes. This entire process is fundamental to how all gene-based biotech products are made.
There are a limited number of transcription factors and corresponding cis-regulatory elements contained within a genome and it is how these different factors interact in a myriad of different combinations that dictates which distinct subsets of genes are turned on. This is called a cell’s “gene expression profile” which, for instance, ultimately dictates whether a cell becomes a lung, liver or brain cell.
Synpromics Designs Promoters with Enhanced Specificity
Synpromics has developed a means to unravel which different combinations of transcription factors control cell fate and has developed a methodology to create libraries of promoter candidates that have the potential to be active only in specific cells and different environments.
In order to do this Synpromics uses a proprietary algorithm to screen the promoter regions of particular genes that are activated in target cells and then identifies the key cis-regulatory elements responsible for that cell’s gene expression profile. If a cell is in a diseased state, or infected with a pathogen, or treated with a chemical or biological agent, then its gene expression profile will change. Thus, given that each unique gene expression profile results from the balance of the activities of transcription factors and cis-regulatory elements, it is possible to design synthetic promoters that can be active only under that specific profile.
Promoters can therefore be constructed that are: active only under a specific pathological condition; active in response to infection or treatment; or specific to any tissue in an organism. This capability has applications in life sciences R&D, biotech-based production processes, in vitro diagnostics, and the development of novel gene therapies with higher specific activity.