Actinobacteria, particularly those of genus Streptomyces, remain invaluable hosts for the discovery and engineering of natural products and their cognate biosynthetic pathways. However, genetic manipulation of these bacteria is often labor and time intensive. Here, we present an engineered CRISPR/Cas system for rapid multiplex genome editing of Streptomyces strains, demonstrating targeted chromosomal deletions in three different Streptomyces species and of various sizes (ranging from 20 bp to 30 kb) with efficiency ranging from 70 to 100%. The designed pCRISPomyces plasmids are amenable to assembly of spacers and editing templates via Golden Gate assembly and isothermal assembly (or traditional digestion/ligation), respectively, allowing rapid plasmid construction to target any genomic locus of interest. As such, the pCRISPomyces system represents a powerful new tool for genome editing in Streptomyces.
Bacteria of the order Actinomycetales are one of the most important sources of pharmacologically active and industrially relevant secondary metabolites. Unfortunately, many of them are still recalcitrant to genetic manipulation, which is a bottleneck for systematic metabolic engineering. To facilitate the genetic manipulation of actinomycetes, we developed a highly efficient CRISPR-Cas9 system to delete gene(s) or gene cluster(s), implement precise gene replacements, and reversibly control gene expression in actinomycetes. We demonstrate our system by targeting two genes, actIORF1 (SCO5087) and actVB (SCO5092), from the actinorhodin biosynthetic gene cluster in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). Our CRISPR-Cas9 system successfully inactivated the targeted genes. When no templates for homology-directed repair (HDR) were present, the site-specific DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) introduced by Cas9 were repaired through the error-prone nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) pathway, resulting in a library of deletions with variable sizes around the targeted sequence. If templates for HDR were provided at the same time, precise deletions of the targeted gene were observed with near 100% frequency. Moreover, we developed a system to efficiently and reversibly control expression of target genes, deemed CRISPRi, based on a catalytically dead variant of Cas9 (dCas9). The CRISPR-Cas9 based system described here comprises a powerful and broadly applicable set of tools to manipulate actinomycetal genomes.
Transcriptional regulation is central to the complex behavior of natural biological systems and synthetic gene circuits. Platforms for the scalable, tunable, and simple modulation of transcription would enable new abilities to study natural systems and implement artificial capabilities in living cells. Previous approaches to synthetic transcriptional regulation have relied on engineering DNA-binding proteins, which necessitate multistep processes for construction and optimization of function. Here, we show that the CRISPR/Cas system of Streptococcus pyogenes can be programmed to direct both activation and repression to natural and artificial eukaryotic promoters through the simple engineering of guide RNAs with base-pairing complementarity to target DNA sites. We demonstrate that the activity of CRISPR-based transcription factors (crisprTFs) can be tuned by directing multiple crisprTFs to different positions in natural promoters and by arraying multiple crisprTF-binding sites in the context of synthetic promoters in yeast and human cells. Furthermore, externally controllable regulatory modules can be engineered by layering gRNAs with small molecule-responsive proteins. Additionally, single nucleotide substitutions within promoters are sufficient to render them orthogonal with respect to the same gRNA-guided crisprTF. We envision that CRISPR-based eukaryotic gene regulation will enable the facile construction of scalable synthetic gene circuits and open up new approaches for mapping natural gene networks and their effects on complex cellular phenotypes.
One-step multiple gene disruption in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a highly useful tool for both basic and applied research, but it remains a challenge. Here, we report a rapid, efficient, and potentially scalable strategy based on the type II Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) - CRISPR associated proteins (Cas) system to generate multiple gene disruptions simultaneously in S. cerevisiae. A 100 bp dsDNA mutagenizing homologous recombination donor is inserted between two direct repeats for each target gene in a CRISPR array consisting of multiple donor and guide sequence pairs. An, ultrahigh copy number plasmid carrying iCas9, a variant of wild-type Cas9, trans-encoded RNA (tracrRNA), and a homology-integrated crRNA cassette is designed to greatly increase the gene disruption efficiency. As proof of concept, three genes, CAN1, ADE2, and LYP1, were simultaneously disrupted in 4 days with an efficiency ranging from 27 to 87%. Another three genes involved in an artificial hydrocortisone biosynthetic pathway, ATF2, GCY1, and YPR1, were simultaneously disrupted in 6 days with 100% efficiency. This homology-integrated CRISPR (HI-CRISPR) strategy represents a powerful tool for creating yeast strains with multiple gene knockouts.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an increasingly attractive host for synthetic biology because of its long history in industrial fermentations. However, until recently, most synthetic biology systems have focused on bacteria. While there is a wealth of resources and literature about the biology of yeast, it can be daunting to navigate and extract the tools needed for engineering applications. Here we present a versatile engineering platform for yeast, which contains both a rapid, modular assembly method and a basic set of characterized parts. This platform provides a framework in which to create new designs, as well as data on promoters, terminators, degradation tags, and copy number to inform those designs. Additionally, we describe genome-editing tools for making modifications directly to the yeast chromosomes, which we find preferable to plasmids due to reduced variability in expression. With this toolkit, we strive to simplify the process of engineering yeast by standardizing the physical manipulations and suggesting best practices that together will enable more straightforward translation of materials and data from one group to another. Additionally, by relieving researchers of the burden of technical details, they can focus on higher-level aspects of experimental design.
Corynebacterium glutamicum is an important organism for the industrial production of amino acids. Metabolic pathways in this organism are usually engineered by conventional methods such as homologous recombination, which depends on rare double-crossover events. To facilitate the mapping of gene expression levels to metabolic outputs, we applied CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) technology using deactivated Cas9 (dCas9) to repress genes in C. glutamicum. We then determined the effects of target repression on amino acid titers. Single-guide RNAs directing dCas9 to specific targets reduced expression of pgi and pck up to 98%, and of pyk up to 97%, resulting in titer enhancement ratios of l-lysine and l-glutamate production comparable to levels achieved by gene deletion. This approach for C. glutamicum metabolic engineering, which only requires 3 days, indicates that CRISPRi can be used for quick and efficient metabolic pathway remodeling without the need for gene deletions or mutations and subsequent selection.
Plant Synthetic Biology requires robust and efficient methods for assembling multigene constructs. Golden Gate cloning provides a precision module-based cloning technique for facile assembly of multiple genes in one construct. We present here a versatile resource for plant biologists comprising a set of cloning vectors and 96 standardized parts to enable Golden Gate construction of multigene constructs for plant transformation. Parts include promoters, untranslated sequences, reporters, antigenic tags, localization signals, selectable markers, and terminators. The comparative performance of parts in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana is discussed.
The oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica is a valuable microbial host for chemical production because it has a high capacity to synthesize, modify, and store intracellular lipids; however, rapid strain development has been hampered by the limited availability of genome engineering tools. We address this limitation by adapting the CRISPR-Cas9 system from Streptococcus pyogenes for markerless gene disruption and integration in Y. lipolytica. Single gene disruption efficiencies of 92% and higher were achieved when single guide RNAs (sgRNA) were transcribed with synthetic hybrid promoters that combine native RNA polymerase III (Pol III) promoters with tRNA. The Pol III-tRNA hybrid promoters exploit endogenous tRNA processing to produce mature sgRNA for Cas9 targeting. The highest efficiencies were achieved with a SCR1'-tRNA(Gly) promoter and Y. lipolytica codon-optimized Cas9 expressed from a UAS1B8-TEF promoter. Cotransformation of the Cas9 and sgRNA expressing plasmid with a homologous recombination donor plasmid resulted in markerless homologous recombination efficiency of over 64%. Homologous recombination was observed in 100% of transformants when nonhomologous end joining was disrupted. The end result of these studies was the development of pCRISPRyl, a modular tool for markerless gene disruption and integration in Y. lipolytica.
Assembly of DNA parts into DNA constructs is a foundational technology in the emerging field of synthetic biology. An efficient DNA assembly method is particularly important for high-throughput, automated DNA assembly in biofabrication facilities and therefore we investigated one-step, scarless DNA assembly via ligase cycling reaction (LCR). LCR assembly uses single-stranded bridging oligos complementary to the ends of neighboring DNA parts, a thermostable ligase to join DNA backbones, and multiple denaturation-annealing-ligation temperature cycles to assemble complex DNA constructs. The efficiency of LCR assembly was improved ca. 4-fold using designed optimization experiments and response surface methodology. Under these optimized conditions, LCR enabled one-step assembly of up to 20 DNA parts and up to 20 kb DNA constructs with very few single-nucleotide polymorphisms (<1 per 25 kb) and insertions/deletions (<1 per 50 kb). Experimental comparison of various sequence-independent DNA assembly methods showed that circular polymerase extension cloning (CPEC) and Gibson isothermal assembly did not enable assembly of more than four DNA parts with more than 50% of clones being correct. Yeast homologous recombination and LCR both enabled reliable assembly of up to 12 DNA parts with 60-100% of individual clones being correct, but LCR assembly provides a much faster and easier workflow than yeast homologous recombination. LCR combines reliable assembly of many DNA parts via a cheap, rapid, and convenient workflow and thereby outperforms existing DNA assembly methods. LCR assembly is expected to become the method of choice for both manual and automated high-throughput assembly of DNA parts into DNA constructs.
We report on and provide a detailed characterization of the performance and properties of a recently developed, all Escherichia coli, cell-free transcription and translation system. Gene expression is entirely based on the endogenous translation components and transcription machinery provided by an E. coli cytoplasmic extract, thus expanding the repertoire of regulatory parts to hundreds of elements. We use a powerful metabolism for ATP regeneration to achieve more than 2 mg/mL of protein synthesis in batch mode reactions, and more than 6 mg/mL in semicontinuous mode. While the strength of cell-free expression is increased by a factor of 3 on average, the output signal of simple gene circuits and the synthesis of entire bacteriophages are increased by orders of magnitude compared to previous results. Messenger RNAs and protein degradation, respectively tuned using E. coli MazF interferase and ClpXP AAA+ proteases, are characterized over a much wider range of rates than the first version of the cell-free toolbox. This system is a highly versatile cell-free platform to construct complex biological systems through the execution of DNA programs composed of synthetic and natural bacterial regulatory parts.
We describe the application of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats interference (CRISPRi) for gene repression in the model cyanobacterium Synechcocystis sp. PCC 6803. The nuclease-deficient Cas9 from the type-II. CRISPR/Cas of Streptrococcus pyogenes was used to repress green fluorescent protein (GFP) to negligible levels. CRISPRi was also used to repress formation of carbon storage compounds polyhydroxybutryate (PHB) and glycogen during nitrogen starvation. As an example of the potential of CRISPRi for basic and applied cyanobacteria research, we simultaneously knocked down 4 putative aldehyde reductases and dehydrogenases at 50-95% repression. This work also demonstrates that tightly repressed promoters allow for inducible and reversible CRISPRi in cyanobacteria.
Cell-free protein synthesis is becoming a powerful technique to construct and to study complex informational processes in vitro. Engineering synthetic gene circuits in a test tube, however, is seriously limited by the transcription repertoire of modern cell-free systems, composed of only a few bacteriophage regulatory elements. Here, we report the construction and the phenomenological characterization of synthetic gene circuits engineered with a cell-free expression toolbox that works with the seven E. coli sigma factors. The E. coli endogenous holoenzyme E(70) is used as the primary transcription machinery. Elementary circuit motifs, such as multiple stage cascades, AND gate and negative feedback loops are constructed with the six other sigma factors, two bacteriophage RNA polymerases, and a set of repressors. The circuit dynamics reveal the importance of the global mRNA turnover rate and of passive competition-induced transcriptional regulation. Cell-free reactions can be carried out over long periods of time with a small-scale dialysis reactor or in phospholipid vesicles, an artificial cell system. This toolbox is a unique platform to study complex transcription/translation-based biochemical systems in vitro.
CRISPR/Cas9 based systems have emerged as versatile platforms for precision genome editing in a wide range of organisms. Here we have developed powerful CRISPR/Cas9 tools for marker-based and marker-free genome modifications in Penicillium chrysogenum, a model filamentous fungus and industrially relevant cell factory. The developed CRISPR/Cas9 toolbox is highly flexible and allows editing of new targets with minimal cloning efforts. The Cas9 protein and the sgRNA can be either delivered during transformation, as preassembled CRISPR-Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) or expressed from an AMA1 based plasmid within the cell. The direct delivery of the Cas9 protein with in vitro synthesized sgRNA to the cells allows for a transient method for genome engineering that may rapidly be applicable for other filamentous fungi. The expression of Cas9 from an AMA1 based vector was shown to be highly efficient for marker-free gene deletions.
An industrial microorganism, Streptomyces avermitilis, which is a producer of anthelmintic macrocyclic lactones, avermectins, has been constructed as a versatile model host for heterologous expression of genes encoding secondary metabolite biosynthesis. Twenty of the entire biosynthetic gene clusters for secondary metabolites were successively cloned and introduced into a versatile model host S. avermitilis SUKA17 or 22. Almost all S. avermitilis transformants carrying the entire gene cluster produced metabolites as a result of the expression of biosynthetic gene clusters introduced. A few transformants were unable to produce metabolites, but their production was restored by the expression of biosynthetic genes using an alternative promoter or the expression of a regulatory gene in the gene cluster that controls the expression of biosynthetic genes in the cluster using an alternative promoter. Production of metabolites in some transformants of the versatile host was higher than that of the original producers, and cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters in the original producer were also expressed in a versatile host.
Recent advances in Synthetic Biology have yielded standardized and automatable DNA assembly protocols that enable a broad range of biotechnological research and development. Unfortunately, the experimental design required for modern scar-less multipart DNA assembly methods is frequently laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone. Here, we report the development and deployment of a web-based software tool, j5, which automates the design of scar-less multipart DNA assembly protocols including SLIC, Gibson, CPEC, and Golden Gate. The key innovations of the j5 design process include cost optimization, leveraging DNA synthesis when cost-effective to do so, the enforcement of design specification rules, hierarchical assembly strategies to mitigate likely assembly errors, and the instruction of manual or automated construction of scar-less combinatorial DNA libraries. Using a GFP expression testbed, we demonstrate that j5 designs can be executed with the SLIC, Gibson, or CPEC assembly methods, used to build combinatorial libraries with the Golden Gate assembly method, and applied to the preparation of linear gene deletion cassettes for E. coli. The DNA assembly design algorithms reported here are generally applicable to broad classes of DNA construction methodologies and could be implemented to supplement other DNA assembly design tools. Taken together, these innovations save researchers time and effort, reduce the frequency of user design errors and off-target assembly products, decrease research costs, and enable scar-less multipart and combinatorial DNA construction at scales unfeasible without computer-aided design.
Engineering metabolic biosynthetic pathways has enabled the microbial production of many useful chemicals However, pathway productivities and yields are often limited by metabolic imbalances. Synthetic regulatory circuits have been shown to be able to balance engineered pathways, improving titers and productivities. Here we developed a negative feedback regulatory circuit based on a malonyl-CoA-based sensor actuator. Malonyl-CoA is biosynthesized I from acetyl-CoA by the acetyl-CoA carboxylase, which is the rate limiting step for fatty acid biosynthesis. Overexpression of acetyl-CoA carboxylase improves fatty acid production, but slows down cell growth. We have devised a malonyl-CoA sensor actuator that controls gene expression levels based on intracellular rnalonyl-CoA concentrations. This sensor actuator is used to construct a negative feedback circuit to regulate the expression of acetyl-CoA carboxylase. The negative feedback circuit is able to up regulate acetylCoA carboxylase expression when the malonyl-CoA concentration is low and down-regulate acetyl-CoA carboxylase expression when excess amounts of malonyl-CoA have accumulated We show that the regulatory circuit effectively alleviates the toxicity associated with acetyl-CoA carboxylase overexpression. When used to regulate the fatty acid pathway, the feedback circuit increases fatty acid titer and productivity by 34% and 33%, respectively.
Programmable control over an addressable global regulator would enable simultaneous repression of multiple genes and would have tremendous impact on the field of synthetic biology. It has recently been established that CRISPR/Cas systems can be engineered to repress gene transcription at nearly any desired location in a sequence-specific manner, but there remain only a handful of applications described to date. In this work, we report development of a vector possessing a CRISPathBrick feature, enabling rapid modular assembly of natural type II-A CRISPR arrays capable of simultaneously repressing multiple target genes in Escherichia coli. Iterative incorporation of spacers into this CRISPathBrick feature facilitates the combinatorial construction of arrays, from a small number of DNA parts, which can be utilized to generate a suite of complex phenotypes corresponding to an encoded genetic program. We show that CRISPathBrick can be used to tune expression of plasmid-based genes and repress chromosomal targets in probiotic, virulent, and commonly engineered E. coli strains. Furthermore, we describe development of pCRISPReporter, a fluorescent reporter plasmid utilized to quantify dCas9-mediated repression from endogenous promoters. Finally, we demonstrate that dCas9-mediated repression can be harnessed to assess the effect of downregulating both novel and computationally predicted metabolic engineering targets, improving the yield of a heterologous phytochemical through repression of endogenous genes. These tools provide a platform for rapid evaluation of multiplex metabolic engineering interventions.
The volumetric heating values of today's biofuels are too low to power energy-intensive aircraft, rockets, and missiles. Recently, pinene dimers were shown to have a volumetric heating value similar to that of the tactical fuel JP-10. To provide a sustainable source of pinene, we engineered Escherichia coli for pinene production. We combinatorially expressed three pinene synthases (PS) and three geranyl diphosphate synthases (GPPS), with the best combination achieving similar to 28 mg/L of pinene. We speculated that pinene toxicity was limiting production; however, toxicity should not be limiting at current titers. Because GAPS is inhibited by geranyl diphosphate (GPP) and to increase flux through the pathway, we combinatorially constructed GPPS-PS protein fusions. The Abies grandis GPPS-PS fusion produced 32 mg/L of pinene, a 6-fold improvement over the highest titer previously reported in engineered E. coli. Finally, we investigated the pinene isomer ratio of our pinene-producing microbe and discovered that the isomer profile is determined not only by the identity of the PS used but also by the identity of the GPPS with which the PS is paired. We demonstrated that the GPP concentration available to PS for cyclization alters the pinene isomer ratio.
The application of synthetic biology requires characterized tools to precisely control gene expression. This toolbox of genetic parts previously did not exist for the I industrially promising cyanobacterium, Synechococcus sp. strain PCC 7002 To address this gap, two orthogonal constitutive promoter libraries, one based on a cyanobacterial promoter and the other ported from Escherichia coli, were built and tested in PCC 7002. The libraries demonstrated 3 and 2.5 log dynamic ranges, respectively, but correlated poorly with E. coli expression levels. These promoter libraries were then combined to create and optimize a series of IPTG inducible cassettes. The resultant induction system had a 48-fold dynamic range and was shown to out perform P-trc constructs. Finally, a RBS library was designed and tested in PCC 7002. The presented synthetic biology toolbox will enable accelerated engineering of PCC 7002.
Harnessing cell factories for producing biofuel and pharmaceutical molecules has stimulated efforts to develop novel synthetic biology tools customized for modular pathway engineering and optimization. Here we report the development of a set of vectors compatible with BioBrick standards and its application in metabolic engineering. The engineered ePathBrick vectors comprise four compatible restriction enzyme sites allocated on strategic positions so that different regulatory control signals can be reused and manipulation of expression cassette can be streamlined. Specifically, these vectors allow for fine-tuning gene expression by integrating multiple transcriptional activation or repression signals into the operator region. At the same time, ePathBrick vectors support the modular assembly of pathway components and combinatorial generation of pathway diversities with three distinct configurations. We also demonstrated the functionality of a seven-gene pathway (similar to 9 Kb) assembled on one single ePathBrick vector. The ePathBrick vectors presented here provide a versatile platform for rapid design and optimization of metabolic pathways in E. coli.