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Cover Art for RNA Switch Project

 The Hirohide Saito laboratory at CiRA is developing RNA technology called “RNA switch” to control the behavior of a cell. In ACS synthetic Biology, Saito’s team reports new RNA switches and show how RNA switches can modulate gene expressions at post-transcriptional levels in human cells.

The paper and related press releases can be seen at the following links.

(CiRA press-release)

(ACS synthetic Biology) doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.9b00343

Ono’s rough idea of the cover art.


  A major attraction of RNA switches is that they provide safer methods to program cells, because they can be delivered as synthetic RNAs. However, when forcing the cells to perform more complicated behavior, multiple RNA switches with distinct trigger proteins are required. In this new paper, they selected five switches that had high efficiency and orthogonality. 





    A graduate student Hiroki Ono, who was one of the co-first authors of the paper contacted me to ask to create a cover art for the paper. He courteously explained me the points of the paper and showed me his rough idea of the cover art.

  Ono’s rough idea of the cover art is to show 5x5 orthogonal squares with RNA attached by some proteins. The diagonal black boxes mean switch-off, while other white boxes mean switch-on. After some consideration, I translated the idea into 3D and added a “ghost” hand turning off the switch to make visually clear to show it is the engineered RNA that controls the switch.

 The most challenging part is to draw accurate protein structures by hand. I used micropen on the thick drawable film which enable to remove ink easily by eraser. The drawn lines were scanned and colors were added digitally.

Rough sketches of cover art. The first proposal (left) and modified proposal (right). The engineered RNA switch has double structures of proteins and fixed correctly. The structure of proteins was referred from the rcsb website:

Pen and Ink on film

A finished Cover Art (with official ACS Synthetic Biology logo.)

  The official legend of the art, as published by ACS Synthetic Biology, is as follows: “A new set of synthetic mRNA-based translational switches was made by engineering RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and RBP-binding RNA motifs (aptamers) that perform strong translational repression. The orthogonality of translational regulation was ensured among five different RBP-responsive switches.”

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