Efficient gene editing in Neurospora crassa with CRISPR technology.
ABSTRACT: Efficient gene editing is a critical tool for investigating molecular mechanisms of cellular processes and engineering organisms for numerous purposes ranging from biotechnology to medicine. Recently developed RNA-guided CRISPR/Cas9 technology has been used for efficient gene editing in various organisms, but has not been tested in a model filamentous fungus, Neurospora crassa.In this report, we demonstrate efficient gene replacement in a model filamentous fungus, Neurospora crassa, with the CRISPR/Cas9 system. We utilize Cas9 endonuclease and single crRNA:tracrRNA chimeric guide RNA (gRNA) to: (1) replace the endogenous promoter of clr-2 with the ?-tubulin promoter, and (2) introduce a codon optimized fire fly luciferase under the control of the gsy-1 promoter at the csr-1 locus. CLR-2 is one of the core transcription factors that regulate the expression of cellulases, and GSY-1 regulates the conversion of glucose into glycogen. We show that the ?-tubulin promoter driven clr-2 strain shows increased expression of cellulases, and gsy-1-luciferase reporter strain can be easily screened with a bioluminescence assay.CRISPR/Cas9 system works efficiently in Neurospora crassa, which may be adapted to Neurospora natural isolates and other filamentous fungi. It will be beneficial for the filamentous fungal research community to take advantage of CRISPR/Cas9 tool kits that enable genetic perturbations including gene replacement and insertions.
Project description:Rational engineering of filamentous fungi for improved cellulase production is hampered by our incomplete knowledge of transcriptional regulatory networks. We therefore used the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa to search for uncharacterized transcription factors associated with cellulose deconstruction. A screen of a N. crassa transcription factor deletion collection identified two uncharacterized zinc binuclear cluster transcription factors (clr-1 and clr-2) that were required for growth and enzymatic activity on cellulose, but were not required for growth or hemicellulase activity on xylan. Transcriptional profiling with next-generation sequencing methods refined our understanding of the N. crassa transcriptional response to cellulose and demonstrated that clr-1 and clr-2 were required for the bulk of that response, including induction of all major cellulase and some major hemicellulase genes. Functional CLR-1 was necessary for expression of clr-2 and efficient cellobiose utilization. Phylogenetic analyses showed that CLR-1 and CLR-2 are conserved in the genomes of most filamentous ascomycete fungi capable of degrading cellulose. In Aspergillus nidulans, a strain carrying a deletion of the clr-2 homolog (clrB) failed to induce cellulase gene expression and lacked cellulolytic activity on Avicel. Further manipulation of this control system in industrial production strains may significantly improve yields of cellulases for cellulosic biofuel production.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Plant biomass degradation by fungal-derived enzymes is rapidly expanding in economic importance as a clean and efficient source for biofuels. The ability to rationally engineer filamentous fungi would facilitate biotechnological applications for degradation of plant cell wall polysaccharides. However, incomplete knowledge of biomolecular networks responsible for plant cell wall deconstruction impedes experimental efforts in this direction. RESULTS:To expand this knowledge base, a detailed network of reactions important for deconstruction of plant cell wall polysaccharides into simple sugars was constructed for the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. To reconstruct this network, information was integrated from five heterogeneous data types: functional genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, genetics, and biochemical characterizations. The combined information was encapsulated into a feature matrix and the evidence weighted to assign annotation confidence scores for each gene within the network. Comparative analyses of RNA-seq and ChIP-seq data shed light on the regulation of the plant cell wall degradation network, leading to a novel hypothesis for degradation of the hemicellulose mannan. The transcription factor CLR-2 was subsequently experimentally shown to play a key role in the mannan degradation pathway of N. crassa. CONCLUSIONS:Here we built a network that serves as a scaffold for integration of diverse experimental datasets. This approach led to the elucidation of regulatory design principles for plant cell wall deconstruction by filamentous fungi and a novel function for the transcription factor CLR-2. This expanding network will aid in efforts to rationally engineer industrially relevant hyper-production strains.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Fungal deconstruction of the plant cell requires a complex orchestration of a wide array of intracellular and extracellular enzymes. In Neurospora crassa, CLR-1, CLR-2, and XLR-1 have been identified as key transcription factors regulating plant cell wall degradation in response to soluble sugars. The XLR-1 regulon was defined using a constitutively active mutant allele, resulting in hemicellulase gene expression and secretion under noninducing conditions. To define genes directly regulated by CLR-1, CLR-2, and XLR-1, we performed chromatin immunoprecipitation and next-generation sequencing (ChIPseq) on epitope-tagged constructs of these three transcription factors. When N. crassa is exposed to plant cell wall material, CLR-1, CLR-2, and XLR-1 individually bind to the promoters of the most strongly induced genes in their respective regulons. These include promoters of genes encoding cellulases for CLR-1 and CLR-2 (CLR-1/CLR-2) and promoters of genes encoding hemicellulases for XLR-1. CLR-1 bound to its regulon under noninducing conditions; however, this binding alone did not translate into gene expression and enzyme secretion. Motif analysis of the bound genes revealed conserved DNA binding motifs, with the CLR-2 motif matching that of its closest paralog in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Gal4p. Coimmunoprecipitation studies showed that CLR-1 and CLR-2 act in a homocomplex but not as a CLR-1/CLR-2 heterocomplex. IMPORTANCE:Understanding fungal regulation of complex plant cell wall deconstruction pathways in response to multiple environmental signals via interconnected transcriptional circuits provides insight into fungus/plant interactions and eukaryotic nutrient sensing. Coordinated optimization of these regulatory networks is likely required for optimal microbial enzyme production.
Project description:Cellulose is recalcitrant to deconstruction to glucose for use in fermentation strategies for biofuels and chemicals derived from lignocellulose. In Neurospora crassa, the transcriptional regulator, CLR-2, is required for cellulolytic gene expression and cellulose deconstruction. To assess conservation and divergence of cellulase gene regulation between fungi from different ecological niches, we compared clr-2 function with its ortholog (clrB) in the distantly related species, Aspergillus nidulans. Transcriptional profiles induced by exposure to crystalline cellulose were similar in both species. Approximately 50% of the cellulose-responsive genes showed strict dependence on functional clr-2/clrB, with a subset of 28 genes encoding plant biomass degrading enzymes that were conserved between N. crassa and A. nidulans. Importantly, misexpression of clr-2 under noninducing conditions was sufficient to drive cellulase gene expression, secretion, and activity in N. crassa, to a level comparable to wild type exposed to Avicel. However, misexpression of clrB in A. nidulans was not sufficient to drive cellulase gene expression under noninducing conditions, although an increase in cellulase activity was observed under crystalline cellulose conditions. Manipulation of clr-2 orthologs among filamentous fungi may enable regulated cellulosic enzyme production in a wide array of culture conditions and host strains, potentially reducing costs associated with enzyme production for plant cell wall deconstruction. However, this functionality may require additional engineering in some species.
Project description:Identifying nutrients available in the environment and utilizing them in the most efficient manner is a challenge common to all organisms. The model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa is capable of utilizing a variety of carbohydrates, from simple sugars to the complex carbohydrates found in plant cell walls. The zinc binuclear cluster transcription factor CLR-1 is necessary for utilization of cellulose, a major, recalcitrant component of the plant cell wall; however, expression of clr-1 in the absence of an inducer is not sufficient to induce cellulase gene expression. We performed a screen for unidentified actors in the cellulose-response pathway and identified a gene encoding a hypothetical protein (clr-3) that is required for repression of CLR-1 activity in the absence of an inducer. Using clr-3 mutants, we implicated the hyperosmotic-response pathway in the tunable regulation of glycosyl hydrolase production in response to changes in osmolarity. The role of the hyperosmotic-response pathway in nutrient sensing may indicate that cells use osmolarity as a proxy for the presence of free sugar in their environment. These signaling pathways form a nutrient-sensing network that allows N. crassa cells to tightly regulate gene expression in response to environmental conditions. Overall design: mRNA profiles of wild type and mutant N. crassa cells exposed to carbon starvation and cellulose. There are 14 different strains and conditions each done in biological triplicate, which includes wild type controls for a total of 42 samples.
Project description:Filamentous fungi are the main source of enzymes used to degrade lignocellulose to fermentable sugars for the production of biofuels. While the most commonly used organism for the production of cellulases in an industrial setting is Trichoderma reesei (Hypocrea jecorina), recent work in the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa has shown that the variety of molecular, genetic and biochemical techniques developed for this organism can expedite analyses of the complexities involved in the utilization of lignocellulose as a source of carbon. These include elucidating regulatory networks associated with plant cell wall deconstruction, the identification of signaling molecules necessary for induction of the expression of genes encoding lignocellulolytic enzymes and the characterization of new cellulolytic enzymatic activities. In particular, the availability of a full genome deletion strain set for N. crassa has expedited high throughput screening for mutants that display a cellulolytic phenotype. This review summarizes the key findings of several recent studies using N. crassa to further understanding the mechanisms of plant cell wall deconstruction by filamentous fungi.
Project description:Purpose: To explore conservation of gene regulation by the transcription factor clr-2/clrB in Neurospora crassa and Aspergillus nidulans Methods: mRNA from wild type and clr-2/clrB mutants were collected after a culture shift from sucrose/glucose to Avicel (crystaline cellulose) or no carbon media Results: We show that N. crassa and A. nidulans have similair global transcriptional responses to Avicel, with several hundred genes showing specific induction, though the induced genes are more specifically targeted at cellulose for N. crassa and more targeted at hemicellulose and pectin for A. nidulans. clr-2/clrB has a conserved fundamental function in cellulose induction, though the mechanism has diverged. Misexpression of clr-2 is sufficeint for inducer free cellulase secretion in N. crassa, but neither clrB or heterologous clr-2 is sufficient for inducer free cellulase secretion in A. nidulans. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates a conserved and essential role in cellulose utilization for the transcription factor clr-2 in filamentous ascomycetes and demonstrates that manipulation of clr-2 expression can be used to control cellulase expression in some species. Biological triplicates of liquid culture N. crassa and A. nidulans were harvested at 4 hours and 6 hours, respectively, after a switch to media of interest. Global mRNA abundances from liquid cultures of N. crassa and A. nidulans were measured by sequencing on the Illumina Genome Analyzer IIx and HiSeq2000 platforms.
Project description:Neurospora crassa colonizes burnt grasslands in the wild and metabolizes both cellulose and hemicellulose from plant cell walls. When switched from a favored carbon source such as sucrose to cellulose, N. crassa dramatically upregulates expression and secretion of a wide variety of genes encoding lignocellulolytic enzymes. However, the means by which N. crassa and other filamentous fungi sense the presence of cellulose in the environment remains unclear. Here, we show that an N. crassa mutant carrying deletions of two genes encoding extracellular ?-glucosidase enzymes and one intracellular ?-glucosidase lacks ?-glucosidase activity, but efficiently induces cellulase gene expression in the presence of cellobiose, cellotriose, or cellotetraose as a sole carbon source. These data indicate that cellobiose, or a modified version of cellobiose, functions as an inducer of lignocellulolytic gene expression in N. crassa. Furthermore, the inclusion of a deletion of the catabolite repressor gene, cre-1, in the triple ?-glucosidase mutant resulted in a strain that produces higher concentrations of secreted active cellulases on cellobiose. Thus, the ability to induce cellulase gene expression using a common and soluble carbon source simplifies enzyme production and characterization, which could be applied to other cellulolytic filamentous fungi.
Project description:Sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs) are conserved from yeast to mammalian cells and function in the regulation of sterol homeostasis. In fungi, the SREBP pathway has been implicated in the adaptation to hypoxia and in virulence. In Neurospora crassa and Trichoderma reesei, the SREBP pathway also negatively regulates protein secretion under lignocellulolytic conditions. Here we utilized global transcriptional profiling combined with genetic and physiological analyses to address the regulatory link between the SREBP pathway and protein secretion in N. crassa Our results demonstrated that the function of the SREBP pathway in ergosterol biosynthesis and adaptation to hypoxia was conserved in N. crassa Under lignocellulolytic conditions, the SREBP pathway was highly activated, resulting in the reduced expression of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases, which require molecular oxygen for catalytic activity. Additionally, activation of the SREBP pathway under lignocellulolytic conditions repressed a set of genes predicted to be involved in the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. Here we show that the inability of a hac-1 mutant, which bears a deletion of the major regulator of the unfolded protein response (UPR), to efficiently produce cellulases and utilize cellulose was suppressed by mutations in the SREBP pathway. The analyses presented here demonstrated new SREBP pathway functions, including linkages to the UPR, and provide new clues for genetic engineering of filamentous fungi to improve their production of extracellular proteins.IMPORTANCE The role of SREBP transcription factors in the regulation of sterol biosynthesis is conserved from humans to yeast. In filamentous fungi, this pathway regulates the secretion of lignocellulolytic enzymes during plant biomass deconstruction. Here we show that the SREBP pathway in Neurospora crassa regulates the production of specific cellulases, lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases that utilize molecular oxygen. Via global transcriptional profile and genetic analyses, a relationship between the SREBP pathway and the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway was revealed, suggesting a regulatory interplay of these two pathways in the trafficking of plant biomass-degrading enzymes. These findings have implications for our understanding of the cross talk of the SREBP and UPR pathways in other organisms and will guide the rational engineering of fungal strains to improve cellulolytic enzyme production.
Project description:Filamentous fungi are important model systems for understanding eukaryotic cellular processes, including the study of protein expression. A salient feature of fungi is the ability of the protein-processing machinery to perform all of the extensive posttranslational modifications needed in the complex world of eukaryotic organisms, making them great hosts for production of eukaryotic proteins. In the model organism Neurospora crassa, several regulatable promoters have been used for heterologous gene expression but all suffer from leaky expression absent stimuli or an inability to induce protein expression at levels greater than those seen in vivo. To increase and better control in vivo protein expression in Neurospora, we have harnessed the light-induced vvd promoter. vvd promoter-driven mRNA expression is dependent upon light, shows a graded response, and is rapidly shut off when returned to the dark. The vvd promoter is a highly tunable and regulatable system, which could be a useful instrument for those interested in efficient and controllable gene expression.