MOTIVATIONExpression vectors used in different biotechnology applications are designed with domain-specific rules. For instance, promoters, origins of replication or homologous recombination sites are host-specific. Similarly, chromosomal integration or viral delivery of an expression cassette imposes specific structural constraints. As de novo gene synthesis and synthetic biology methods permeate many biotechnology specialties, the design of application-specific expression vectors becomes the new norm. In this context, it is desirable to formalize vector design strategies applicable in different domains.RESULTSUsing the design of constructs to express genes in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as an example, we show that a vector design strategy can be formalized as a domain-specific language. We have developed a graphical editor of context-free grammars usable by biologists without prior exposure to language theory. This environment makes it possible for biologists to iteratively improve their design strategies throughout the course of a project. It is also possible to ensure that vectors designed with early iterations of the language are consistent with the latest iteration of the language.AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATIONThe context-free grammar editor is part of the GenoCAD application. A public instance of GenoCAD is available at http://www.genocad.org. GenoCAD source code is available from SourceForge and licensed under the Apache v2.0 open source license.