Developing transfection protocols for marine protists is an emerging field that will allow the functional characterization of protist genes and their roles in organism responses to the environment. We developed a CRISPR/Cas9 editing protocol for Bodo saltans, a free-living kinetoplastid with tolerance to both marine and freshwater conditions, and a close non-parasitic relative of trypanosomatids. Our results show that SaCas9/sgRNA ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex-mediated disruption of the paraflagellar rod 2 gene (BsPFR2) was achieved using electroporation-mediated transfection. The use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing can increase the efficiency of targeted homologous recombination when a repair DNA template is provided. Based on sequence analysis, two mechanisms for repairing double-strand breaks (DSB) in B. saltans are active; homologous directed repair (HDR) utilizing an exogenous DNA template that carries an antibiotic resistance gene, and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). However, HDR was only achieved when a single (vs. multiple) SaCas9 RNP complex was provided. Further, the biallelic knockout of BsPFR2 was detrimental for the cell, highlighting its essential role for cell survival because it facilitates the movement of food particles into the cytostome. Our Cas9/sgRNA RNP complex protocol provides a new tool for assessing gene functions in B. saltans, and perhaps similar protists with polycistronic transcription. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Few genetic tools were available to work with Trypanosoma cruzi until the recent introduction of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique for gene knockout, gene knock-in, gene complementation, and endogenous gene tagging. Riboswitches are naturally occurring self-cleaving RNAs (ribozymes) that can be ligand-activated. Results from our laboratory recently demonstrated the usefulness of the glmS ribozyme from Bacillus subtilis, which has been shown to control reporter gene expression in response to exogenous glucosamine, for gene silencing in Trypanosoma brucei. In this work we used the CRISPR/Cas9 system for endogenously tagging T. cruzi glycoprotein 72 (TcGP72) and vacuolar proton pyrophosphatase (TcVP1) with the active (glmS) or inactive (M9) ribozyme. Gene tagging was confirmed by PCR and protein downregulation was verified by western blot analyses. Further phenotypic characterization was performed by immunofluorescence analysis and quantification of growth in vitro. Our results indicate that the method was successful in silencing the expression of both genes without the need of glucosamine in the medium, suggesting that T. cruzi produces enough levels of endogenous glucosamine 6-phosphate to stimulate the glmS ribozyme activity under normal growth conditions. This method could be useful to obtain knockdowns of essential genes in T. cruzi and to validate potential drug targets in this parasite.
The genetic manipulation of the human parasite Trypanosoma cruzi has been significantly improved since the implementation of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for genome editing in this organism. The system was initially used for gene knockout in T. cruzi, later on for endogenous gene tagging and more recently for gene complementation. Mutant cell lines obtained by CRISPR/Cas9 have been used for the functional characterization of proteins in different stages of this parasite’s life cycle, including infective trypomastigotes and intracellular amastigotes. In this chapter we describe the methodology to achieve genome editing by CRISPR/Cas9 in T. cruzi. Our method involves the utilization of a template cassette (donor DNA) to promote double-strand break repair by homologous directed repair (HDR). In this way, we have generated homogeneous populations of genetically modified parasites in 4–5 weeks without the need of cell sorting, selection of clonal populations, or insertion of more than one resistance marker to modify both alleles of the gene. The methodology has been organized according to three main genetic purposes: gene knockout, gene complementation of knockout cell lines generated by CRISPR/Cas9, and C-terminal tagging of endogenous genes in T. cruzi. In addition, we refer to the specific results that have been published using each one of these strategies.
Rick Tarleton and Boris Striepen are featured in UGA Research magazine‘s article on CRISPR.