April 21, 2020  |  

Optimized Cas9 expression systems for highly efficient Arabidopsis genome editing facilitate isolation of complex alleles in a single generation.

Genetic resources for the model plant Arabidopsis comprise mutant lines defective in almost any single gene in reference accession Columbia. However, gene redundancy and/or close linkage often render it extremely laborious or even impossible to isolate a desired line lacking a specific function or set of genes from segregating populations. Therefore, we here evaluated strategies and efficiencies for the inactivation of multiple genes by Cas9-based nucleases and multiplexing. In first attempts, we succeeded in isolating a mutant line carrying a 70 kb deletion, which occurred at a frequency of ~?1.6% in the T2 generation, through PCR-based screening of numerous individuals. However, we failed to isolate a line lacking Lhcb1 genes, which are present in five copies organized at two loci in the Arabidopsis genome. To improve efficiency of our Cas9-based nuclease system, regulatory sequences controlling Cas9 expression levels and timing were systematically compared. Indeed, use of DD45 and RPS5a promoters improved efficiency of our genome editing system by approximately 25-30-fold in comparison to the previous ubiquitin promoter. Using an optimized genome editing system with RPS5a promoter-driven Cas9, putatively quintuple mutant lines lacking detectable amounts of Lhcb1 protein represented approximately 30% of T1 transformants. These results show how improved genome editing systems facilitate the isolation of complex mutant alleles, previously considered impossible to generate, at high frequency even in a single (T1) generation.

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.

April 21, 2020  |  

Linking CRISPR-Cas9 interference in cassava to the evolution of editing-resistant geminiviruses.

Geminiviruses cause damaging diseases in several important crop species. However, limited progress has been made in developing crop varieties resistant to these highly diverse DNA viruses. Recently, the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system has been transferred to plants to target and confer immunity to geminiviruses. In this study, we use CRISPR-Cas9 interference in the staple food crop cassava with the aim of engineering resistance to African cassava mosaic virus, a member of a widespread and important family (Geminiviridae) of plant-pathogenic DNA viruses.Our results show that the CRISPR system fails to confer effective resistance to the virus during glasshouse inoculations. Further, we find that between 33 and 48% of edited virus genomes evolve a conserved single-nucleotide mutation that confers resistance to CRISPR-Cas9 cleavage. We also find that in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana the replication of the novel, mutant virus is dependent on the presence of the wild-type virus.Our study highlights the risks associated with CRISPR-Cas9 virus immunity in eukaryotes given that the mutagenic nature of the system generates viral escapes in a short time period. Our in-depth analysis of virus populations also represents a template for future studies analyzing virus escape from anti-viral CRISPR transgenics. This is especially important for informing regulation of such actively mutagenic applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in agriculture.

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