Tuning dCas9's ability to block transcription enables robust, noiseless knockdown of bacterial genes.
ABSTRACT: Over the past few years, tools that make use of the Cas9 nuclease have led to many breakthroughs, including in the control of gene expression. The catalytically dead variant of Cas9 known as dCas9 can be guided by small RNAs to block transcription of target genes, in a strategy also known as CRISPRi. Here, we reveal that the level of complementarity between the guide RNA and the target controls the rate at which RNA polymerase "kicks out" dCas9 from the target and completes transcription. We use this mechanism to precisely and robustly reduce gene expression by defined relative amounts. Alternatively, tuning repression by changing dCas9 concentration is noisy and promoter-strength dependent. We demonstrate broad applicability of this method to the study of genetic regulation and cellular physiology. First, we characterize feedback strength of a model auto-repressor. Second, we study the impact of amount variations of cell-wall synthesizing enzymes on cell morphology. Finally, we multiplex the system to obtain any combination of fractional repression of two genes.
Project description:Giardia lamblia is a binucleate protistan parasite causing significant diarrheal disease worldwide. An inability to target Cas9 to both nuclei, combined with the lack of nonhomologous end joining and markers for positive selection, has stalled the adaptation of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genetic tools for this widespread parasite. CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) is a modification of the CRISPR/Cas9 system that directs catalytically inactive Cas9 (dCas9) to target loci for stable transcriptional repression. Using a Giardia nuclear localization signal to target dCas9 to both nuclei, we developed efficient and stable CRISPRi-mediated transcriptional repression of exogenous and endogenous genes in Giardia. Specifically, CRISPRi knockdown of kinesin-2a and kinesin-13 causes severe flagellar length defects that mirror defects with morpholino knockdown. Knockdown of the ventral disk MBP protein also causes severe structural defects that are highly prevalent and persist in the population more than 5 d longer than defects associated with transient morpholino-based knockdown. By expressing two guide RNAs in tandem to simultaneously knock down kinesin-13 and MBP, we created a stable dual knockdown strain with both flagellar length and disk defects. The efficiency and simplicity of CRISPRi in polyploid Giardia allows rapid evaluation of knockdown phenotypes and highlights the utility of CRISPRi for emerging model systems.
Project description:The ability to block gene expression in bacteria with the catalytically inactive mutant of Cas9, known as dCas9, is quickly becoming a standard methodology to probe gene function, perform high-throughput screens, and engineer cells for desired purposes. Yet, we still lack a good understanding of the design rules that determine on-target activity for dCas9. Taking advantage of high-throughput screening data, we fit a model to predict the ability of dCas9 to block the RNA polymerase based on the target sequence, and validate its performance on independently generated datasets. We further design a novel genome wide guide RNA library for E. coli MG1655, EcoWG1, using our model to choose guides with high activity while avoiding guides which might be toxic or have off-target effects. A screen performed using the EcoWG1 library during growth in rich medium improved upon previously published screens, demonstrating that very good performances can be attained using only a small number of well designed guides. Being able to design effective, smaller libraries will help make CRISPRi screens even easier to perform and more cost-effective. Our model and materials are available to the community through crispr.pasteur.fr and Addgene.
Project description:Background The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 system has become a powerful tool for functional genomics in plants. The RNA-guided nuclease can be used to not only generate precise genomic mutations, but also to manipulate gene expression when present as a deactivated protein (dCas9). Results In this study, we describe a vector toolkit for analyzing dCas9-mediated activation (CRISPRa) or inactivation (CRISPRi) of gene expression in maize protoplasts. An improved maize protoplast isolation and transfection method is presented, as well as a description of dCas9 vectors to enhance or repress maize gene expression. Conclusions We anticipate that this maize protoplast toolkit will streamline the analysis of gRNA candidates and facilitate genetic studies of important trait genes in this transformation-recalcitrant plant.
Project description:High-throughput CRISPR-Cas9 screens have recently emerged as powerful tools to decipher gene functions and genetic interactions. Here we use a genome-wide library of guide RNAs to direct the catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9) to block gene transcription in Escherichia coli. Using a machine-learning approach, we reveal that guide RNAs sharing specific 5-nucleotide seed sequences can produce strong fitness defects or even kill E. coli regardless of the other 15 nucleotides of guide sequence. This effect occurs at high dCas9 concentrations and can be alleviated by tuning the expression of dCas9 while maintaining strong on-target repression. Our results also highlight the fact that off-targets with as little as nine nucleotides of homology to the guide RNA can strongly block gene expression. Altogether this study provides important design rules to safely use dCas9 in E. coli.
Project description:High-throughput genetic screens are powerful methods to identify genes linked to a given phenotype. The catalytic null mutant of the Cas9 RNA-guided nuclease (dCas9) can be conveniently used to silence genes of interest in a method also known as CRISPRi. Here, we report a genome-wide CRISPR-dCas9 screen using a starting pool of ~ 92,000 sgRNAs which target random positions in the chromosome of E. coli. To benchmark our method, we first investigate its utility to predict gene essentiality in the genome of E. coli during growth in rich medium. We could identify 79% of the genes previously reported as essential and demonstrate the non-essentiality of some genes annotated as essential. In addition, we took advantage of the intermediate repression levels obtained when targeting the template strand of genes to show that cells are very sensitive to the expression level of a limited set of essential genes. Our data can be visualized on CRISPRbrowser, a custom web interface available at crispr.pasteur.fr. We then apply the screen to discover E. coli genes required by phages ?, T4 and 186 to kill their host, highlighting the involvement of diverse host pathways in the infection process of the three tested phages. We also identify colanic acid capsule synthesis as a shared resistance mechanism to all three phages. Finally, using a plasmid packaging system and a transduction assay, we identify genes required for the formation of functional ? capsids, thus covering the entire phage cycle. This study demonstrates the usefulness and convenience of pooled genome-wide CRISPR-dCas9 screens in bacteria and paves the way for their broader use as a powerful tool in bacterial genomics.
Project description:Here we introduce plasmids for xylose-regulated expression and repression of genes in Clostridioides difficile The xylose-inducible expression vector allows for ?100-fold induction of an mCherryOpt reporter gene. Induction is titratable and uniform from cell to cell. The gene repression plasmid is a CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) system based on a nuclease-defective, codon-optimized allele of the Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 protein (dCas9) that is targeted to a gene of interest by a constitutively expressed single guide RNA (sgRNA). Expression of dCas9 is induced by xylose, allowing investigators to control the timing and extent of gene silencing, as demonstrated here by dose-dependent repression of a chromosomal gene for a red fluorescent protein (maximum repression, ?100-fold). To validate the utility of CRISPRi for deciphering gene function in C. difficile, we knocked down the expression of three genes involved in the biogenesis of the cell envelope: the cell division gene ftsZ, the S-layer protein gene slpA, and the peptidoglycan synthase gene pbp-0712 CRISPRi confirmed known or expected phenotypes associated with the loss of FtsZ and SlpA and revealed that the previously uncharacterized peptidoglycan synthase PBP-0712 is needed for proper elongation, cell division, and protection against lysis.IMPORTANCE Clostridioides difficile has become the leading cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea in developed countries. A better understanding of the basic biology of this devastating pathogen might lead to novel approaches for preventing or treating C. difficile infections. Here we introduce new plasmid vectors that allow for titratable induction (P xyl ) or knockdown (CRISPRi) of gene expression. The CRISPRi plasmid allows for easy depletion of target proteins in C. difficile Besides bypassing the lengthy process of mutant construction, CRISPRi can be used to study the function of essential genes, which are particularly important targets for antibiotic development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Rewriting of the epigenome has risen as a promising alternative to gene editing for precision medicine. In nature, epigenetic silencing can result in complete attenuation of target gene expression over multiple mitotic divisions. However, persistent repression has been difficult to achieve in a predictable manner using targeted systems. RESULTS:Here, we report that persistent epigenetic memory required both a DNA methyltransferase (DNMT3A-dCas9) and a histone methyltransferase (Ezh2-dCas9 or KRAB-dCas9). We demonstrate that the histone methyltransferase requirement can be locus specific. Co-targeting Ezh2-dCas9, but not KRAB-dCas9, with DNMT3A-dCas9 and DNMT3L induced long-term HER2 repression over at least 50 days (approximately 57 cell divisions) and triggered an epigenetic switch to a heterochromatic environment. An increase in H3K27 trimethylation and DNA methylation was stably maintained and accompanied by a sustained loss of H3K27 acetylation. Interestingly, substitution of Ezh2-dCas9 with KRAB-dCas9 enabled long-term repression at some target genes (e.g., SNURF) but not at HER2, at which H3K9me3 and DNA methylation were transiently acquired and subsequently lost. Off-target DNA hypermethylation occurred at many individual CpG sites but rarely at multiple CpGs in a single promoter, consistent with no detectable effect on transcription at the off-target loci tested. Conversely, robust hypermethylation was observed at HER2. We further demonstrated that Ezh2-dCas9 required full-length DNMT3L for maximal activity and that co-targeting DNMT3L was sufficient for persistent repression by Ezh2-dCas9 or KRAB-dCas9. CONCLUSIONS:These data demonstrate that targeting different combinations of histone and DNA methyltransferases is required to achieve maximal repression at different loci. Fine-tuning of targeting tools is a necessity to engineer epigenetic memory at any given locus in any given cell type.
Project description:Cas9 binds and cleaves specific DNA sequences by inducing the formation of an R-loop between the guide RNA and its genomic target. While targeting of active Cas9 to a genomic locus is highly mutagenic because Cas9 creates DNA double strand breaks, targeting of dead Cas9 (dCas9) is presumed not to be mutagenic, as dCas9 lacks DNA endonuclease activity. Here, we show that dCas9 targeting induces mutations in yeast, particularly when targeted to the non-transcribed strand of a gene. dCas9-induced mutations cluster near the guide RNA target region and are comprised of single nucleotide substitutions, small insertions and deletions, and even complex mutations, depending upon the particular guide RNA target. We show that many of these mutations are a consequence of cytosine deamination events occurring on the non-target strand of the dCas9-induced R-loop, while others are associated with homopolymer instability or translesion DNA synthesis. Targeting of dCas9 by a mismatch-containing guide RNA also increases CAN1 mutation frequency, particularly in an ung1Δ mutant strain, suggesting that dCas9 induces mutations through similar mechanisms at off-target sites. These findings indicate that DNA binding by dCas9 is mutagenic in yeast, likely because dCas9 induces the formation of an R-loop at its target site.
Project description:CRISPRi, an adapted CRISPR-Cas9 system, is proposed to act as a strand-specific roadblock to repress transcription in eukaryotic cells using guide RNAs (sgRNAs) to target catalytically inactive Cas9 (dCas9) and offers an alternative to genetic interventions for studying pervasive antisense transcription. Here, we successfully use click chemistry to construct DNA templates for sgRNA expression and show, rather than acting simply as a roadblock, sgRNA/dCas9 binding creates an environment that is permissive for transcription initiation/termination, thus generating novel sense and antisense transcripts. At HMS2 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, sgRNA/dCas9 targeting to the non-template strand for antisense transcription results in antisense transcription termination, premature termination of a proportion of sense transcripts and initiation of a novel antisense transcript downstream of the sgRNA/dCas9-binding site. This redefinition of the transcriptional landscape by CRISPRi demonstrates that it is not strand-specific and highlights the controls and locus understanding required to properly interpret results from CRISPRi interventions.
Project description:Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by pathogenic bacteria of the genus Leptospira, which also includes free-living saprophyte strains. Many aspects of leptospiral basic biology and virulence mechanisms remain unexplored mainly due to the lack of effective genetic tools available for these bacteria. Recently, the type II CRISPR/Cas system from Streptococcus pyogenes has been widely used as an efficient genome engineering tool in bacteria by inducing double-strand breaks (DSBs) in the desired genomic targets caused by an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease called Cas9, and the DSB repair associated machinery. In the present work, plasmids expressing heterologous S. pyogenes Cas9 in L. biflexa cells were generated, and the enzyme could be expressed with no apparent toxicity to leptospiral cells. However, L. biflexa cells were unable to repair RNA-guided Cas9-induced DSBs. Thus, we used a catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9) to obtain gene silencing rather than disruption, in a strategy called CRISPR interference (CRISPRi). We demonstrated complete gene silencing in L. biflexa cells when both dCas9 and single-guide RNA (sgRNA) targeting the coding strand of the ?-galactosidase gene were expressed simultaneously. Furthermore, when the system was applied for silencing the dnaK gene, no colonies were recovered, indicating that DnaK protein is essential in Leptospira. In addition, flagellar motor switch FliG gene silencing resulted in reduced bacterial motility. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work applying the CRISPRi system in Leptospira and spirochetes in general, expanding the tools available for understanding leptospiral biology.