April 21, 2020  |  

A New Species of the ?-Proteobacterium Francisella, F. adeliensis Sp. Nov., Endocytobiont in an Antarctic Marine Ciliate and Potential Evolutionary Forerunner of Pathogenic Species.

The study of the draft genome of an Antarctic marine ciliate, Euplotes petzi, revealed foreign sequences of bacterial origin belonging to the ?-proteobacterium Francisella that includes pathogenic and environmental species. TEM and FISH analyses confirmed the presence of a Francisella endocytobiont in E. petzi. This endocytobiont was isolated and found to be a new species, named F. adeliensis sp. nov.. F. adeliensis grows well at wide ranges of temperature, salinity, and carbon dioxide concentrations implying that it may colonize new organisms living in deeply diversified habitats. The F. adeliensis genome includes the igl and pdp gene sets (pdpC and pdpE excepted) of the Francisella pathogenicity island needed for intracellular growth. Consistently with an F. adeliensis ancient symbiotic lifestyle, it also contains a single insertion-sequence element. Instead, it lacks genes for the biosynthesis of essential amino acids such as cysteine, lysine, methionine, and tyrosine. In a genome-based phylogenetic tree, F. adeliensis forms a new early branching clade, basal to the evolution of pathogenic species. The correlations of this clade with the other clades raise doubts about a genuine free-living nature of the environmental Francisella species isolated from natural and man-made environments, and suggest to look at F. adeliensis as a pioneer in the Francisella colonization of eukaryotic organisms.

April 21, 2020  |  

Phylogenetic barriers to horizontal transfer of antimicrobial peptide resistance genes in the human gut microbiota.

The human gut microbiota has adapted to the presence of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are ancient components of immune defence. Despite its medical importance, it has remained unclear whether AMP resistance genes in the gut microbiome are available for genetic exchange between bacterial species. Here, we show that AMP resistance and antibiotic resistance genes differ in their mobilization patterns and functional compatibilities with new bacterial hosts. First, whereas AMP resistance genes are widespread in the gut microbiome, their rate of horizontal transfer is lower than that of antibiotic resistance genes. Second, gut microbiota culturing and functional metagenomics have revealed that AMP resistance genes originating from phylogenetically distant bacteria have only a limited potential to confer resistance in Escherichia coli, an intrinsically susceptible species. Taken together, functional compatibility with the new bacterial host emerges as a key factor limiting the genetic exchange of AMP resistance genes. Finally, our results suggest that AMPs induce highly specific changes in the composition of the human microbiota, with implications for disease risks.

April 21, 2020  |  

Combining orthogonal CRISPR and CRISPRi systems for genome engineering and metabolic pathway modulation in Escherichia coli.

CRISPR utilizing Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) employing catalytically inactive SpCas9 (SpdCas9) have gained popularity for Escherichia coli engineering. To integrate the SpdCas9-based CRISPRi module using CRISPR while avoiding mutual interference between SpCas9/SpdCas9 and their cognate single-guide RNA (sgRNA), this study aimed at exploring an alternative Cas nuclease orthogonal to SpCas9. We compared several Cas9 variants from different microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus (SaCas9) and Streptococcus thermophilius CRISPR1 (St1Cas9) as well as Cas12a derived from Francisella novicida (FnCas12a). At the commonly used E. coli model genes  LacZ, we found that SaCas9 and St1Cas9 induced DNA cleavage more effectively than FnCas12a. Both St1Cas9 and SaCas9 were orthogonal to SpCas9 and the induced DNA cleavage promoted the integration of heterologous DNA of up to 10?kb, at which size St1Cas9 was superior to SaCas9 in recombination frequency/accuracy. We harnessed the St1Cas9 system to integrate SpdCas9 and sgRNA arrays for constitutive knockdown of three genes, knock-in pyc and knockout adhE, without compromising the CRISPRi knockdown efficiency. The combination of orthogonal CRISPR/CRISPRi for metabolic engineering enhanced succinate production while inhibiting byproduct formation and may pave a new avenue to E. coli engineering. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

April 21, 2020  |  

Development of CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing and beyond

The development of clustered regularly interspaced short-palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems for genome editing has transformed the way life science research is conducted and holds enormous potential for the treatment of disease as well as for many aspects of biotech- nology. Here, I provide a personal perspective on the development of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing within the broader context of the field and discuss our work to discover novel Cas effectors and develop them into additional molecular tools. The initial demonstra- tion of Cas9-mediated genome editing launched the development of many other technologies, enabled new lines of biological inquiry, and motivated a deeper examination of natural CRISPR-Cas systems, including the discovery of new types of CRISPR-Cas systems. These new discoveries in turn spurred further technological developments. I review these exciting discoveries and technologies as well as provide an overview of the broad array of applications of these technologies in basic research and in the improvement of human health. It is clear that we are only just beginning to unravel the potential within microbial diversity, and it is quite likely that we will continue to discover other exciting phenomena, some of which it may be possible to repurpose as molecular technologies. The transformation of mysterious natural phenomena to powerful tools, however, takes a collective effort to discover, characterize, and engineer them, and it has been a privilege to join the numerous researchers who have contributed to this transformation of CRISPR-Cas systems.

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