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Reversible Gene Expression Control in Yersinia pestis by Using an Optimized CRISPR Interference System.


ABSTRACT: Many genes in the bacterial pathogen Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of three plague pandemics, remain uncharacterized, greatly hampering the development of measures for plague prevention and control. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat interference (CRISPRi) has been shown to be an effective tool for gene knockdown in model bacteria. In this system, a catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9) and a small guide RNA (sgRNA) form a complex, binding to the specific DNA target through base pairing, thereby impeding RNA polymerase binding and causing target gene repression. Here, we introduce an optimized CRISPRi system using Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9-derived dCas9 for gene knockdown in Y. pestis Multiple genes harbored on either the chromosome or plasmids of Y. pestis were efficiently knocked down (up to 380-fold) in a strictly anhydrotetracycline-inducible manner using this CRISPRi approach. Knockdown of hmsH (responsible for biofilm formation) or cspB (encoding a cold shock protein) resulted in greatly decreased biofilm formation or impaired cold tolerance in in vitro phenotypic assays. Furthermore, silencing of the virulence-associated genes yscB or ail using this CRISPRi system resulted in attenuation of virulence in HeLa cells and mice similar to that previously reported for yscB and ail null mutants. Taken together, our results confirm that this optimized CRISPRi system can reversibly and efficiently repress the expression of target genes in Y. pestis, providing an alternative to conventional gene knockdown techniques, as well as a strategy for high-throughput phenotypic screening of Y. pestis genes with unknown functions.IMPORTANCE Yersinia pestis is a lethal pathogen responsible for millions of human deaths in history. It has also attracted much attention for potential uses as a bioweapon or bioterrorism agent, against which new vaccines are desperately needed. However, many Y. pestis genes remain uncharacterized, greatly hampering the development of measures for plague prevention and control. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat interference (CRISPRi) has been successfully used in a variety of bacteria in functional genomic studies, but no such genetic tool has been reported in Y. pestis Here, we systematically optimized the CRISPRi approach for use in Y. pestis, which ultimately repressed target gene expression with high efficiency in a reversible manner. Knockdown of functional genes using this method produced phenotypes that were readily detected by in vitro assays, cell infection assays, and mouse infection experiments. This is a report of a CRISPRi approach in Y. pestis and highlights the potential use of this approach in high-throughput functional genomics studies of this pathogen.

SUBMITTER: Wang T 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6544824 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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