Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 25

Search results for: CRISPR

25 CRISPR-DT: Designing gRNAs for the CRISPR-Cpf1 System with Improved Target Efficiency and Specificity

Authors: Houxiang Zhu, Chun Liang


The CRISPR-Cpf1 system has been successfully applied in genome editing. However, target efficiency of the CRISPR-Cpf1 system varies among different gRNA sequences. The published CRISPR-Cpf1 gRNA data was reanalyzed. Many sequences and structural features of gRNAs (e.g., the position-specific nucleotide composition, position-nonspecific nucleotide composition, GC content, minimum free energy, and melting temperature) correlated with target efficiency were found. Using machine learning technology, a support vector machine (SVM) model was created to predict target efficiency for any given gRNAs. The first web service application, CRISPR-DT (CRISPR DNA Targeting), has been developed to help users design optimal gRNAs for the CRISPR-Cpf1 system by considering both target efficiency and specificity. CRISPR-DT will empower researchers in genome editing.

Keywords: CRISPR-Cpf1, genome editing, target efficiency, target specificity

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24 Intellectual Property Protection of CRISPR Related Technologies

Authors: Zheng Miao, Dennis Fernandez


CRISPR research has the potential to completely transform life science, agriculture, live-stock and the health care industry. The Intellectual Property derived from its research has raised significant attention in the academic as well as the biopharmaceutical industry culminating an urgent need for strategic IP protection. We review the rudimentary concepts and key competitors of CRISPR technologies as well as the paramount strategies for intellectual property protection. Further, we elaborate on prosecution issues related to CRISPR patents as well as possible solutions to various patent laws, interferences and litigation. Finally, we address how the bioinformatics of the CRISPR technology begs an inquiry into issues of privacy and a host of ethical concerns.

Keywords: bioinformatics, CRISPR, biotechnology, intellectual property

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23 A Systematic Review on The Usage of CRISPR-Cas System in The Treatment of Osteoarthritis(OA)

Authors: Atiqah Binti Ab Aziz


Background: It has been estimated that about 250 million people all over the world suffer from osteoarthritis (OA). Thus, OA is a major health problem in urgent need of better treatment. Problem statement: Current therapies for OA can temporarily relieve clinical symptoms and for pain management, rather than preventing or curing OA. Total knee replacement performed at the end stage of the disease is considered the only cure available. Objectives: This article aimed to explore the potential of treating osteoarthritis via the CRISPR Cas system. Methods: Articles that relate to the application of the CRISPR Cas system in osteoarthritis were extracted, categorized, and reviewed through the PRISMA method using PubMed, an engine published from November 2016 to November 2021. Results: There were 30 articles screened. Articles that fall under the categories of non-English articles, full articles that were not available, articles that were not an original articles were excluded. Ultimately, 13 articles were reviewed. Discussion: This review provides an information on the introduction of CRISPR and discussed on their mechanism of actions in extracted studies for OA treatment. Conclusions: It can be seen that not many medical research utilize the CRISPR Cas system as part of the method in the treatment of OA. Hence exploring the extent of the usage of the CRISPR Cas system in OA treatment is important to determine the research gap and point out at which of the research is needed further investigation to avoid redundancy of existing research and ensure the novelty of the research.

Keywords: osteoarthritis, treatment, CRISPR, review, therapy

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22 The Need for a Consistent Regulatory Framework for CRISPR Gene-Editing in the European Union

Authors: Andrew Thayer, Courtney Rondeau, Paraskevi Papadopoulou


The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) gene-editing technologies have generated considerable discussion about the applications and ethics of their use. However, no consistent guidelines for using CRISPR technologies have been developed -nor common legislation passed related to gene editing, especially as it is connected to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union. The recent announcement that the first babies with CRISPR-edited genes were born, along with new studies exploring CRISPR’s applications in treating thalassemia, sickle-cell anemia, cancer, and certain forms of blindness, have demonstrated that the technology is developing faster than the policies needed to control it. Therefore, it can be seen that a reasonable and coherent regulatory framework for the use of CRISPR in human somatic and germline cells is necessary to ensure the ethical use of the technology in future years. The European Union serves as a unique region of interconnected countries without a standard set of regulations or legislation for CRISPR gene-editing. We posit that the EU would serve as a suitable model in comparing the legislations of its affiliated countries in order to understand the practicality and effectiveness of adopting majority-approved practices. Additionally, we present a proposed set of guidelines which could serve as a basis in developing a consistent regulatory framework for the EU countries to implement but also act as a good example for other countries to adhere to. Finally, an additional, multidimensional framework of smart solutions is proposed with which all stakeholders are engaged to become better-informed citizens.

Keywords: CRISPR, ethics, regulatory framework, European legislation

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21 Defective Autophagy Leads to the Resistance to PP2 in ATG5 Knockout Cells Generated by CRISPR-Cas9 Endonuclease

Authors: Sung-Hee Hwang, Michael Lee


Upregulated Src activity has been implicated in a variety of cancers. Thus, Src family tyrosine kinase (SFK) inhibitors are often effective cancer treatments. Here, we investigate the role of autophagy in ATG5 knockout cell lines generated by the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/Cas mediated genome editing. The CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease that uses RNA–DNA complementarity to identify target sites for sequence specific double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) cleavage. Interestingly, ATG5 KO cells clearly showed a greater proliferation rate than WT NIH 3T3 cells, implying that autophagy induction is cytotoxic. Also, the clonogenic survival of ATG5 KO cells was greater than WT cells. The MTT assay revealed that the cytotoxic effect of PP2 was weaker on ATG5 knockout cells than that WT cells. The conversion of non-autophagic LC3-I to autophagic LC3-II and RT-PCR confirmed the functional gene knockout. Furthermore, Cyto-ID autophagy assay also revealed that PP2 failed to induce autophagy in ATG5 knockout cells. Together, our findings suggest that the resistance to PP2 in ATG5 knockout cells is associated with defective autophagy.

Keywords: ATG5 knockout, Autophagy, CRISPR/Cas9, PP2

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20 Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat/cas9-Based Lateral Flow and Fluorescence Diagnostics for Rapid Pathogen Detection

Authors: Mark Osborn


Clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR/Cas) proteins can be designed to bind specified DNA and RNA sequences and hold great promise for the accurate detection of nucleic acids for diagnostics. Commercially available reagents were integrated into a CRISPR/Cas9-based lateral flow assay that can detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) sequences with single-base specificity. This approach requires minimal equipment and represents a simplified platform for field-based deployment. A rapid, multiplex fluorescence CRISPR/Cas9 nuclease cleavage assay capable of detecting and differentiating SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus in a single reaction was also developed. These findings provide proof of principle for CRISPR/Cas9 point-of-care diagnosis that can detect specific SARS-CoV-2 strain(s). Further, Cas9 cleavage allows for a scalable fluorescent platform for identifying respiratory viral pathogens with overlapping symptomology. Collectively, this approach is a facile platform for diagnostics with broad application to user-defined sequence interrogation and detection.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9, lateral flow assay, SARS-Co-V2, single-nucleotide resolution

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19 High-Throughput Artificial Guide RNA Sequence Design for Type I, II and III CRISPR/Cas-Mediated Genome Editing

Authors: Farahnaz Sadat Golestan Hashemi, Mohd Razi Ismail, Mohd Y. Rafii


A huge revolution has emerged in genome engineering by the discovery of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats) and CRISPR-associated system genes (Cas) in bacteria. The function of type II Streptococcus pyogenes (Sp) CRISPR/Cas9 system has been confirmed in various species. Other S. thermophilus (St) CRISPR-Cas systems, CRISPR1-Cas and CRISPR3-Cas, have been also reported for preventing phage infection. The CRISPR1-Cas system interferes by cleaving foreign dsDNA entering the cell in a length-specific and orientation-dependant manner. The S. thermophilus CRISPR3-Cas system also acts by cleaving phage dsDNA genomes at the same specific position inside the targeted protospacer as observed in the CRISPR1-Cas system. It is worth mentioning, for the effective DNA cleavage activity, RNA-guided Cas9 orthologs require their own specific PAM (protospacer adjacent motif) sequences. Activity levels are based on the sequence of the protospacer and specific combinations of favorable PAM bases. Therefore, based on the specific length and sequence of PAM followed by a constant length of target site for the three orthogonals of Cas9 protein, a well-organized procedure will be required for high-throughput and accurate mining of possible target sites in a large genomic dataset. Consequently, we created a reliable procedure to explore potential gRNA sequences for type I (Streptococcus thermophiles), II (Streptococcus pyogenes), and III (Streptococcus thermophiles) CRISPR/Cas systems. To mine CRISPR target sites, four different searching modes of sgRNA binding to target DNA strand were applied. These searching modes are as follows: i) coding strand searching, ii) anti-coding strand searching, iii) both strand searching, and iv) paired-gRNA searching. The output of such procedure highlights the power of comparative genome mining for different CRISPR/Cas systems. This could yield a repertoire of Cas9 variants with expanded capabilities of gRNA design, and will pave the way for further advance genome and epigenome engineering.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas systems, gRNA mining, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus thermophiles

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18 Optimization for Guide RNA and CRISPR/Cas9 System Nanoparticle Mediated Delivery into Plant Cell for Genome Editing

Authors: Andrey V. Khromov, Antonida V. Makhotenko, Ekaterina A. Snigir, Svetlana S. Makarova, Natalia O. Kalinina, Valentin V. Makarov, Mikhail E. Taliansky


Due to its simplicity, CRISPR/Cas9 has become widely used and capable of inducing mutations in the genes of organisms of various kingdoms. The aim of this work was to develop applications for the efficient modification of DNA coding sequences of phytoene desaturase (PDS), coilin and vacuolar invertase (Solanum tuberosum) genes, and to develop a new nanoparticles carrier efficient technology to deliver the CRISPR/Cas9 system for editing the plant genome. For each of the genes - coilin, PDS and vacuolar invertase, five single RNA guide (sgRNAs) were synthesized. To determine the most suitable nanoplatform, two types of NP platforms were used: magnetic NPs (MNPS) and gold NPs (AuNPs). To test the penetration efficiency, they were functionalized with fluorescent agents - BSA * FITS and GFP, as well as labeled Cy3 small-sized RNA. To measure the efficiency, a fluorescence and confocal microscopy were used. It was shown that the best of these options were AuNP - both in the case of proteins and in the case of RNA. The next step was to check the possibility of delivering components of the CRISPR/Cas9 system to plant cells for editing target genes. AuNPs were functionalized with a ribonucleoprotein complex consisting of Cas9 and corresponding to target genes sgRNAs, and they were biolistically bombarded to axillary buds and apical meristems of potato plants. After the treatment by the best NP carrier, potato meristems were grown to adult plants. DNA isolated from this plants was sent to a preliminary fragment of the analysis to screen out the non-transformed samples, and then to the NGS. The present work was carried out with the financial support from the Russian Science Foundation (grant No. 16-16-04019).

Keywords: biobombardment, coilin, CRISPR/Cas9, nanoparticles, NPs, PDS, sgRNA, vacuolar invertase

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17 Improving the Bioprocess Phenotype of Chinese Hamster Ovary Cells Using CRISPR/Cas9 and Sponge Decoy Mediated MiRNA Knockdowns

Authors: Kevin Kellner, Nga Lao, Orla Coleman, Paula Meleady, Niall Barron


Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells are the prominent cell line used in biopharmaceutical production. To improve yields and find beneficial bioprocess phenotypes genetic engineering plays an essential role in recent research. The miR-23 cluster, specifically miR-24 and miR-27, was first identified as differentially expressed during hypothermic conditions suggesting a role in proliferation and productivity in CHO cells. In this study, we used sponge decoy technology to stably deplete the miRNA expression of the cluster. Furthermore, we implemented the CRISPR/Cas9 system to knockdown miRNA expression. Sponge constructs were designed for an imperfect binding of the miRNA target, protecting from RISC mediated cleavage. GuideRNAs for the CRISPR/Cas9 system were designed to target the seed region of the miRNA. The expression of mature miRNA and precursor were confirmed using RT-qPCR. For both approaches stable expressing mixed populations were generated and characterised in batch cultures. It was shown, that CRISPR/Cas9 can be implemented in CHO cells with achieving high knockdown efficacy of every single member of the cluster. Targeting of one miRNA member showed that its genomic paralog is successfully targeted as well. The stable depletion of miR-24 using CRISPR/Cas9 showed increased growth and specific productivity in a CHO-K1 mAb expressing cell line. This phenotype was further characterized using quantitative label-free LC-MS/MS showing 186 proteins differently expressed with 19 involved in proliferation and 26 involved in protein folding/translation. Targeting miR-27 in the same cell line showed increased viability in late stages of the culture compared to the control. To evaluate the phenotype in an industry relevant cell line; the miR-23 cluster, miR-24 and miR-27 were stably depleted in a Fc fusion CHO-S cell line which showed increased batch titers up to 1.5-fold. In this work, we highlighted that the stable depletion of the miR-23 cluster and its members can improve the bioprocess phenotype concerning growth and productivity in two different cell lines. Furthermore, we showed that using CRISPR/Cas9 is comparable to the traditional sponge decoy technology.

Keywords: Chinese Hamster ovary cells, CRISPR/Cas9, microRNAs, sponge decoy technology

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16 Genome-Wide Mining of Potential Guide RNAs for Streptococcus pyogenes and Neisseria meningitides CRISPR-Cas Systems for Genome Engineering

Authors: Farahnaz Sadat Golestan Hashemi, Mohd Razi Ismail, Mohd Y. Rafii


Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated protein (Cas) system can facilitate targeted genome editing in organisms. Dual or single guide RNA (gRNA) can program the Cas9 nuclease to cut target DNA in particular areas; thus, introducing concise mutations either via error-prone non-homologous end-joining repairing or via incorporating foreign DNAs by homologous recombination between donor DNA and target area. In spite of high demand of such promising technology, developing a well-organized procedure in order for reliable mining of potential target sites for gRNAs in large genomic data is still challenging. Hence, we aimed to perform high-throughput detection of target sites by specific PAMs for not only common Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) but also for Neisseria meningitides (NmCas9) CRISPR-Cas systems. Previous research confirmed the successful application of such RNA-guided Cas9 orthologs for effective gene targeting and subsequently genome manipulation. However, Cas9 orthologs need their particular PAM sequence for DNA cleavage activity. Activity levels are based on the sequence of the protospacer and specific combinations of favorable PAM bases. Therefore, based on the specific length and sequence of PAM followed by a constant length of the target site for the two orthogonals of Cas9 protein, we created a reliable procedure to explore possible gRNA sequences. To mine CRISPR target sites, four different searching modes of sgRNA binding to target DNA strand were applied. These searching modes are as follows i) coding strand searching, ii) anti-coding strand searching, iii) both strand searching, and iv) paired-gRNA searching. Finally, a complete list of all potential gRNAs along with their locations, strands, and PAMs sequence orientation can be provided for both SpCas9 as well as another potential Cas9 ortholog (NmCas9). The artificial design of potential gRNAs in a genome of interest can accelerate functional genomic studies. Consequently, the application of such novel genome editing tool (CRISPR/Cas technology) will enhance by presenting increased versatility and efficiency.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, gRNA mining, SpCas9, NmCas9

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15 A Biophysical Model of CRISPR/Cas9 on- and off-Target Binding for Rational Design of Guide RNAs

Authors: Iman Farasat, Howard M. Salis


The CRISPR/Cas9 system has revolutionized genome engineering by enabling site-directed and high-throughput genome editing, genome insertion, and gene knockdowns in several species, including bacteria, yeast, flies, worms, and human cell lines. This technology has the potential to enable human gene therapy to treat genetic diseases and cancer at the molecular level; however, the current CRISPR/Cas9 system suffers from seemingly sporadic off-target genome mutagenesis that prevents its use in gene therapy. A comprehensive mechanistic model that explains how the CRISPR/Cas9 functions would enable the rational design of the guide-RNAs responsible for target site selection while minimizing unexpected genome mutagenesis. Here, we present the first quantitative model of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome mutagenesis system that predicts how guide-RNA sequences (crRNAs) control target site selection and cleavage activity. We used statistical thermodynamics and law of mass action to develop a five-step biophysical model of cas9 cleavage, and examined it in vivo and in vitro. To predict a crRNA's binding specificities and cleavage rates, we then compiled a nearest neighbor (NN) energy model that accounts for all possible base pairings and mismatches between the crRNA and the possible genomic DNA sites. These calculations correctly predicted crRNA specificity across 5518 sites. Our analysis reveals that cas9 activity and specificity are anti-correlated, and, the trade-off between them is the determining factor in performing an RNA-mediated cleavage with minimal off-targets. To find an optimal solution, we first created a scheme of safe-design criteria for Cas9 target selection by systematic analysis of available high throughput measurements. We then used our biophysical model to determine the optimal Cas9 expression levels and timing that maximizes on-target cleavage and minimizes off-target activity. We successfully applied this approach in bacterial and mammalian cell lines to reduce off-target activity to near background mutagenesis level while maintaining high on-target cleavage rate.

Keywords: biophysical model, CRISPR, Cas9, genome editing

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14 Societal Acceptability Conditions of Genome Editing for Upland Rice in Madagascar

Authors: Anny Lucrece Nlend Nkott, Ludovic Temple


The appearance in 2012 of the CRISPR-CaS9 genome editing technique marks a turning point in the field of genetics. This technique would make it possible to create new varieties quickly and cheaply. Although some consider CRISPR-CaS9 to be revolutionary, others consider it a potential societal threat. To document the controversy, we explain the socioeconomic conditions under which this technique could be accepted for the creation of a rainfed rice variety in Madagascar. The methodological framework is based on 38 individual and semistructured interviews, a multistakeholder forum with 27 participants, and a survey of 148 rice producers. Results reveal that the acceptability of genome editing requires (i) strengthening the seed system through the operationalization of regulatory structures and the upgrading of stakeholders' knowledge of genetically modified organisms, (ii) assessing the effects of the edited variety on biodiversity and soil nitrogen dynamics, and (iii) strengthening the technical and human capacities of the biosafety body. Structural mechanisms for regulating the seed system are necessary to ensure safe experimentation of genome editing techniques. Organizational innovation also appears to be necessary. The study documents how collective learning between communities of scientists and nonscientists is a component of systemic processes of varietal innovation. This study was carried out with the financial support of the GENERICE project (Generation and Deployment of Genome-Edited, Nitrogen-use-Efficient Rice Varieties), funded by the Agropolis Foundation.

Keywords: CRISPR-CaS9, varietal innovation, seed system, innovation system

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13 Cas9-Assisted Direct Cloning and Refactoring of a Silent Biosynthetic Gene Cluster

Authors: Peng Hou


Natural products produced from marine bacteria serve as an immense reservoir for anti-infective drugs and therapeutic agents. Nowadays, heterologous expression of gene clusters of interests has been widely adopted as an effective strategy for natural product discovery. Briefly, the heterologous expression flowchart would be: biosynthetic gene cluster identification, pathway construction and expression, and product detection. However, gene cluster capture using traditional Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) protocol is low-efficient (0.5% positive colony rate). To make things worse, most of these putative new natural products are only predicted by bioinformatics analysis such as antiSMASH, and their corresponding natural products biosynthetic pathways are either not expressed or expressed at very low levels under laboratory conditions. Those setbacks have inspired us to focus on seeking new technologies to efficiently edit and refractor of biosynthetic gene clusters. Recently, two cutting-edge techniques have attracted our attention - the CRISPR-Cas9 and Gibson Assembly. By now, we have tried to pretreat Brevibacillus laterosporus strain genomic DNA with CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases that specifically generated breaks near the gene cluster of interest. This trial resulted in an increase in the efficiency of gene cluster capture (9%). Moreover, using Gibson Assembly by adding/deleting certain operon and tailoring enzymes regardless of end compatibility, the silent construct (~80kb) has been successfully refactored into an active one, yielded a series of analogs expected. With the appearances of the novel molecular tools, we are confident to believe that development of a high throughput mature pipeline for DNA assembly, transformation, product isolation and identification would no longer be a daydream for marine natural product discovery.

Keywords: biosynthesis, CRISPR-Cas9, DNA assembly, refactor, TAR cloning

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12 Reducing Phytic Acid in Rice Grain by Targeted Mutagenesis of a Phospholipase D Gene

Authors: Muhammad Saad Shoaib Khan, Rasbin Basnet, Qingyao Shu


Phospholipids are one of the major classes of lipid comprising 10% of total grain lipid in rice. Phospholipids are the main phosphorus containing lipid in the rice endosperm, contributing to rice palatability and seed storage property. However, in the rice grain, the majority of phosphorus occur in the form of phytic acid and are highly abundant in the bran. Phytic acid, also known as hexaphosphorylated inositol (IP6), are strong chelating agents which reduces the bioavailability of essential dietary nutrients and are therefore less desirable by rice breeders. We used the CRISPR/Cas9 system to generate mutants of a phospholipase D gene (PLDα1), which is responsible for the degradation of phospholipids into phosphatidic acid (PA). In the mutants, we found a significant reduction in the concentration of phytic acid in the grain as compared to the wild-type. The biochemical analysis of the PLDα1 mutants showed that the decrease in production of phosphatidic acid is due to reduced accumulation of CDP-diacylglycerolderived phosphatidylinositol (PI), ultimately leading to lower accumulation of phytic acid in mutants. These results showed that loss of function of PLD in rice leads to lower production of phytic acid, suggesting the potential application of Ospldα1 in breeding rice with less phytic acid.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9, phospholipase D, phytic acid, rice

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11 In vitro Modeling of Aniridia-Related Keratopathy by the Use of Crispr/Cas9 on Limbal Epithelial Cells and Rescue

Authors: Daniel Aberdam


Haploinsufficiency of PAX6 in humans is the main cause of congenital aniridia, a rare eye disease characterized by reduced visual acuity. Patients have also progressive disorders including cataract, glaucoma and corneal abnormalities making their condition very challenging to manage. Aniridia-related keratopathy (ARK), caused by a combination of factors including limbal stem-cell deficiency, impaired healing response, abnormal differentiation, and infiltration of conjunctival cells onto the corneal surface, affects up to 95% of patients. It usually begins in the first decade of life resulting in recurrent corneal erosions, sub-epithelial fibrosis with corneal decompensation and opacification. Unfortunately, current treatment options for aniridia patients are currently limited. Although animal models partially recapitulate this disease, there is no in vitro cellular model of AKT needed for drug/therapeutic tools screening and validation. We used genome editing (CRISPR/Cas9 technology) to introduce a nonsense mutation found in patients into one allele of the PAX6 gene into limbal stem cells. Resulting mutated clones, expressing half of the amount of PAX6 protein and thus representative of haploinsufficiency were further characterized. Sequencing analysis showed that no off-target mutations were induced. The mutated cells displayed reduced cell proliferation and cell migration but enhanced cell adhesion. Known PAX6 targets expression was also reduced. Remarkably, addition of soluble recombinant PAX6 protein into the culture medium was sufficient to activate endogenous PAX6 gene and, as a consequence, rescue the phenotype. It strongly suggests that our in vitro model recapitulates well the epithelial defect and becomes a powerful tool to identify drugs that could rescue the corneal defect in patients. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the homeotic transcription factor Pax6 is able to be uptake naturally by recipient cells to function into the nucleus.

Keywords: Pax6, crispr/cas9, limbal stem cells, aniridia, gene therapy

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10 TCTN2 Maintains the Transition Zone Stability and Controls the Entrance of the Ciliary Membrane Protein into Primary Cilia

Authors: Rueyhung Weng, Chia-En Huang, Jung-Chi-Liao


The transition zone (TZ) serves as a diffusion barrier to regulate the ins and outs of the proteins recruited to the primary cilia. TCTN2 is one of the TZ proteins and its mutation causes Joubert syndrome, a serious multi-organ disease. Despite its important medical relevance, the functions of TCTN2 remain elusive. Here we created a TCTN2 gene deleted retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE1) using CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing technique and used this knockout line to reveal roles of TCTN2. TCTN2 knockout RPE1 cells displayed a significantly reduced ciliogenesis or a shortened primary cilium length in the cilium-remaining population. Intraflagellar transport protein IFT88 aberrantly accumulated at the tip of TCTN2 deficient cells. Guanine nucleotide exchange factor Arl13B was mostly absent from the ciliary compartment, with a small population localizing at the ciliary tip. The deficient TZ was corroborated with the mislocalization of two other TZ proteins TMEM67 and MKS1. In addition, TCTN2 deficiency induced TZ impairment led to the suppression of Sonic hedgehog signaling in response to Smoothened (Smo) agonist. Together, depletion of TCTN2 destabilizes other TZ proteins and considerably alters the localization of key transport and signaling-associated proteins, including IFT88, Arl13B, and Smo.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9, primary cilia, Sonic hedgehog signaling, transition zone

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9 Characterization of Heterotrimeric G Protein α Subunit in Tomato

Authors: Thi Thao Ninh, Yuri Trusov, José Ramón Botella


Heterotrimeric G proteins, comprised of three subunits, α, β and γ, are involved in signal transduction pathways that mediate a vast number of processes across the eukaryotic kingdom. 23 Gα subunits are present in humans whereas most plant genomes encode for only one canonical Gα. The disparity observed between Arabidopsis, rice, and maize Gα-deficient mutant phenotypes suggest that Gα functions have diversified between eudicots and monocots during evolution. Alternatively, since the only Gα mutations available in dicots have been produced in Arabidopsis, the possibility exists that this species might be an exception to the rule. In order to test this hypothesis, we studied the G protein α subunit (TGA1) in tomato. Four tga1 knockout lines were generated in tomato cultivar Moneymaker using CRISPR/Cas9. The tga1 mutants exhibit a number of auxin-related phenotypes including changes in leaf shape, reduced plant height, fruit size and number of seeds per fruit. In addition, tga1 mutants have increased sensitivity to abscisic acid during seed germination, reduced sensitivity to exogenous auxin during adventitious root formation from cotyledons and excised hypocotyl explants. Our results suggest that Gα mutant phenotypes in tomato are very similar to those observed in monocots, i.e. rice and maize, and cast doubts about the validity of using Arabidopsis as a model system for plant G protein studies.

Keywords: auxin-related phenotypes, CRISPR/Cas9, G protein α subunit, heterotrimeric G proteins, tomato

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8 RNA-Seq Based Transcriptomic Analysis of Wheat Cultivars for Unveiling of Genomic Variations and Isolation of Drought Tolerant Genes for Genome Editing

Authors: Ghulam Muhammad Ali


Unveiling of genes involved in drought and root architecture using transcriptomic analyses remained fragmented for further improvement of wheat through genome editing. The purpose of this research endeavor was to unveil the variations in different genes implicated in drought tolerance and root architecture in wheat through RNA-seq data analysis. In this study seedlings of 8 days old, 6 cultivars of wheat namely, Batis, Blue Silver, Local White, UZ888, Chakwal 50 and Synthetic wheat S22 were subjected to transcriptomic analysis for root and shoot genes. Total of 12 RNA samples was sequenced by Illumina. Using updated wheat transcripts from Ensembl and IWGC references with 54,175 gene models, we found that 49,621 out of 54,175 (91.5%) genes are expressed at an RPKM of 0.1 or more (in at least 1 sample). The number of genes expressed was higher in Local White than Batis. Differentially expressed genes (DEG) were higher in Chakwal 50. Expression-based clustering indicated conserved function of DRO1and RPK1 between Arabidopsis and wheat. Dendrogram showed that Local White is sister to Chakwal 50 while Batis is closely related to Blue Silver. This study flaunts transcriptomic sequence variations in different cultivars that showed mutations in genes associated with drought that may directly contribute to drought tolerance. DRO1 and RPK1 genes were fetched/isolated for genome editing. These genes are being edited in wheat through CRISPR-Cas9 for yield enhancement.

Keywords: transcriptomic, wheat, genome editing, drought, CRISPR-Cas9, yield enhancement

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7 CRISPR/Cas9 Based Gene Stacking in Plants for Virus Resistance Using Site-Specific Recombinases

Authors: Sabin Aslam, Sultan Habibullah Khan, James G. Thomson, Abhaya M. Dandekar


Losses due to viral diseases are posing a serious threat to crop production. A quick breakdown of resistance to viruses like Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCuV) demands the application of a proficient technology to engineer durable resistance. Gene stacking has recently emerged as a potential approach for integrating multiple genes in crop plants. In the present study, recombinase technology has been used for site-specific gene stacking. A target vector (pG-Rec) was designed for engineering a predetermined specific site in the plant genome whereby genes can be stacked repeatedly. Using Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, the pG-Rec was transformed into Coker-312 along with Nicotiana tabacum L. cv. Xanthi and Nicotiana benthamiana. The transgene analysis of target lines was conducted through junction PCR. The transgene positive target lines were used for further transformations to site-specifically stack two genes of interest using Bxb1 and PhiC31 recombinases. In the first instance, Cas9 driven by multiplex gRNAs (for Rep gene of CLCuV) was site-specifically integrated into the target lines and determined by the junction PCR and real-time PCR. The resulting plants were subsequently used to stack the second gene of interest (AVP3 gene from Arabidopsis for enhancing cotton plant growth). The addition of the genes is simultaneously achieved with the removal of marker genes for recycling with the next round of gene stacking. Consequently, transgenic marker-free plants were produced with two genes stacked at the specific site. These transgenic plants can be potential germplasm to introduce resistance against various strains of cotton leaf curl virus (CLCuV) and abiotic stresses. The results of the research demonstrate gene stacking in crop plants, a technology that can be used to introduce multiple genes sequentially at predefined genomic sites. The current climate change scenario highlights the use of such technologies so that gigantic environmental issues can be tackled by several traits in a single step. After evaluating virus resistance in the resulting plants, the lines can be a primer to initiate stacking of further genes in Cotton for other traits as well as molecular breeding with elite cotton lines.

Keywords: cotton, CRISPR/Cas9, gene stacking, genome editing, recombinases

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6 Establishments of an Efficient Platform for Genome Editing in Grapevine

Authors: S. Najafi, E. Bertini, M. Pezzotti, G.B. Tornielli, S. Zenoni


Grapevine is an important agricultural fruit crop plant consumed worldwide and with a key role in the global economy. Grapevine is strongly affected by both biotic and abiotic stresses, which impact grape growth at different stages, such as during plant and berry development and pre- and post-harvest, consequently causing significant economic losses. Recently global warming has propelled the anticipation of the onset of berry ripening, determining the reduction of a grape color and increased volatilization of aroma compounds. Climate change could negatively alter the physiological characteristics of the grape and affect the berry and wine quality. Modern plant breeding can provide tools such as genome editing for improving grape resilience traits while maintaining intact the viticultural and oenological quality characteristics of the genotype. This study aims at developing a platform for genome editing application in grapevine plants with the final goal to improve berry quality, biotic, and abiotic resilience traits. We chose to directly deliver ribonucleoproteins (RNP, preassembled Cas protein and guide RNA) into plant protoplasts, and, from these cell structures, regenerate grapevine plants edited in specific selected genes controlling traits of interest. Edited plants regenerated by somatic embryogenesis from protoplasts will then be sequenced and molecularly characterized. Embryogenic calli of Sultana and Shiraz cultivars were initiated from unopened leaves of in-vitro shoot tip cultures and from stamens, respectively. Leaves were placed on NB2 medium while stamens on callus initiation medium (PIV) medium and incubated in the dark at 28 °C for three months. Viable protoplasts, tested by FDA staining, isolated from embryogenic calli were cultured by disc method at 1*105 protoplasts/ml. Mature well-shaped somatic embryos developed directly in the protoplast culture medium two months later and were transferred in the light into to shooting medium for further growth. Regenerated plants were then transferred to the greenhouse; no phenotypic alterations were observed when compared to non in-vitro cultured plants. The performed experiments allowed to established an efficient protocol of embryogenic calli production, protoplast isolation, and regeneration of the whole plant through somatic embryogenesis in both Sultana and Shiraz. Regenerated plants, through direct somatic embryogenesis deriving from a single cell, avoid the risk of chimerism during the regeneration process, therefore improving the genome editing process. As pre-requisite of genome editing, an efficient method for transfection of protoplast by yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) marker genes was also established and experiments of direct delivery of CRISPR–Cas9 ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) in protoplasts to achieve efficient DNA-free targeted mutations are in progress.

Keywords: CRISPR-cas9, plant regeneration, protoplast isolation, Vitis vinifera

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5 Microfluidic Chambers with Fluid Walls for Cell Biology

Authors: Cristian Soitu, Alexander Feuerborn, Cyril Deroy, Alfonso Castrejon-Pita, Peter R. Cook, Edmond J. Walsh


Microfluidics now stands as an academically mature technology after a quarter of a century research activities have delivered a vast array of proof of concepts for many biological workflows. However, translation to industry remains poor, with only a handful of notable exceptions – e.g. digital PCR, DNA sequencing – mainly because of biocompatibility issues, limited range of readouts supported or complex operation required. This technology exploits the domination of interfacial forces over gravitational ones at the microscale, replacing solid walls with fluid ones as building blocks for cell micro-environments. By employing only materials used by biologists for decades, the system is shown to be biocompatible, and easy to manufacture and operate. The method consists in displacing a continuous fluid layer into a pattern of isolated chambers overlaid with an immiscible liquid to prevent evaporation. The resulting fluid arrangements can be arrays of micro-chambers with rectangular footprint, which use the maximum surface area available, or structures with irregular patterns. Pliant, self-healing fluid walls confine volumes as small as 1 nl. Such fluidic structures can be reconfigured during the assays, giving the platform an unprecedented level of flexibility. Common workflows in cell biology are demonstrated – e.g. cell growth and retrieval, cloning, cryopreservation, fixation and immunolabeling, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, and proof-of-concept drug tests. This fluid-shaping technology is shown to have potential for high-throughput cell- and organism-based assays. The ability to make and reconfigure on-demand microfluidic circuits on standard Petri dishes should find many applications in biology, and yield more relevant phenotypic and genotypic responses when compared to standard microfluidic assays.

Keywords: fluid walls, micro-chambers, reconfigurable, freestyle

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4 Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis in Trema orientalis: Effect of a Naturally-Occurring Symbiosis Receptor Kinase Mutant Allele

Authors: Yuda Purwana Roswanjaya, Wouter Kohlen, Rene Geurts


The Trema genus represents a group of fast-growing tropical tree species within the Cannabaceae. Interestingly, five species nested in this lineage -known as Parasponia- can establish rhizobium nitrogen-fixing root nodules, similar to those found in legumes. Parasponia and legumes use a conserved genetic network to control root nodule formation, among which are genes also essential for mycorrhizal symbiosis (the so-called common symbiotic pathway). However, Trema species lost several genes that function exclusively in nodulation, suggesting a loss-of the nodulation trait in Trema. Strikingly, in a Trema orientalis population found in Malaysian Borneo we identified a truncated SYMBIOSIS RECEPTOR KINASE (SYMRK) mutant allele lacking a large portion of the c-terminal kinase domain. In legumes this gene is essential for nodulation and mycorrhization. This raises the question whether Trema orientalis can still be mycorrhized. To answer this question, we established quantitative mycorrhization assay for Parasponia andersonii and Trema orientalis. Plants were grown in closed pots on half strength Hoagland medium containing 20 µM potassium phosphate in sterilized sand and inoculated with 125 spores of Rhizopagus irregularis (Agronutrion-DAOM197198). Mycorrhization efficiency was determined by analyzing the frequency of mycorrhiza (%F), the intensity of the mycorrhizal colonization (%M) and the arbuscule abundance (%A) in the root system. Trema orientalis RG33 can be mycorrhized, though with lower efficiency compared to Parasponia andersonii. From this we conclude that a functional SYMRK kinase domain is not essential for Trema orientalis mycorrhization. In ongoing experiments, we aim to investigate the role of SYMRK in Parasponia andersonii mycorrhization and nodulation. For this two Parasponia andersonii symrk CRISPR-Cas9 mutant alleles were created. One mimicking the TorSYMRKRG33 allele by deletion of exon 13-15, and a full Parasponia andersonii SYMRK knockout.

Keywords: endomycorrhization, Parasponia andersonii, symbiosis receptor kinase (SYMRK), Trema orientalis

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3 Effects of Hydrogen Bonding and Vinylcarbazole Derivatives on 3-Cyanovinylcarbazole Mediated Photo-Cross-Linking Induced Cytosine Deamination

Authors: Siddhant Sethi, Yasuharu Takashima, Shigetaka Nakamura, Kenzo Fujimoto


Site-directed mutagenesis is a renowned technique to introduce specific mutations in the genome. To achieve site-directed mutagenesis, many chemical and enzymatic approaches have been reported in the past like disulphite induced genome editing, CRISPR-Cas9, TALEN etc. The chemical methods are invasive whereas the enzymatic approaches are time-consuming and expensive. Most of these techniques are unusable in the cellular application due to their toxicity and other limitations. Photo-chemical cytosine deamination, introduced in 2010, is one of the major technique for enzyme-free single-point mutation of cytosine to uracil in DNA and RNA, wherein, 3-cyanovinylcarbazole nucleoside (CNVK) containing oligodeoxyribonucleotide (ODN) having CNVK at -1 position to that of target cytosine is reversibly crosslinked to target DNA strand using 366 nm and then incubated at 90ºC to accommodate deamination. This technique is superior to enzymatic methods of site-directed mutagenesis but has a disadvantage that it requires the use of high temperature for the deamination step which restricts its applicability in the in vivo applications. This study has been focused on improving the technique by reducing the temperature required for deamination. Firstly, the photo-cross-linker, CNVK has been modified by replacing cyano group attached to vinyl group with methyl ester (OMeVK), amide (NH2VK), and carboxylic acid (OHVK) to observe the acceleration in the deamination of target cytosine cross-linked to vinylcarbazole derivative. Among the derivatives, OHVK has shown 2 times acceleration in deamination reaction as compared to CNVK, while the other two derivatives have shown deceleration towards deamination reaction. The trend of rate of deamination reaction follows the same order as that of hydrophilicity of the vinylcarbazole derivatives. OHVK being most hydrophilic has shown highest acceleration while OMeVK is least hydrophilic has proven to be least active for deamination. Secondly, in the related study, the counter-base of the target cytosine, guanine has been replaced by inosine, 2-aminopurine, nebularine, and 5-nitroindole having distinct hydrogen bonding patterns with target cytosine. Among the ODNs with these counter bases, ODN with inosine has shown 12 fold acceleration towards deamination of cytosine cross-linked to CNVK at physiological conditions as compared to guanosine. Whereas, when 2-aminopurine, nebularine, and 5-nitroindole were used, no deamination reaction took place. It can be concluded that inosine has potential to be used as the counter base of target cytosine for the CNVK mediated photo-cross-linking induced deamination of cytosine. The increase in rate of deamination reaction has been attributed to pattern and number of hydrogen bonding between the cytosine and counter base. One of the important factor is presence of hydrogen bond between exo-cyclic amino group of cytosine and the counter base. These results will be useful for development of more efficient technique for site-directed mutagenesis for C → U transformations in the DNA/RNA which might be used in the living system for treatment of various genetic disorders and genome engineering for making designer and non-native proteins.

Keywords: C to U transformation, DNA editing, genome engineering, ultra-fast photo-cross-linking

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2 Identification of the Target Genes to Increase the Immunotherapy Response in Bladder Cancer Patients using Computational and Experimental Approach

Authors: Sahar Nasr, Lin Li, Edwin Wang


Bladder cancer (BLCA) is known as the 13th cause of death among cancer patients worldwide, and ~575,000 new BLCA cases are diagnosed each year. Urothelial carcinoma (UC) is the most prevalent subtype among BLCA patients, which can be categorized into muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) and non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). Currently, various therapeutic options are available for UC patients, including (1) transurethral resection followed by intravesical instillation of chemotherapeutics or Bacillus Calmette-Guérin for NMIBC patients, (2) neoadjuvant platinum-based chemotherapy (NAC) plus radical cystectomy is the standard of care for localized MIBC patients, and (3) systematic chemotherapy for metastatic UC. However, conventional treatments may lead to several challenges for treating patients. As an illustration, some patients may suffer from recurrence of the disease after the first line of treatment. Recently, immune checkpoint therapy (ICT) has been introduced as an alternative treatment strategy for the first or second line of treatment in advanced or metastatic BLCA patients. Although ICT showed lucrative results for a fraction of BLCA patients, ~80% of patients were not responsive to it. Therefore, novel treatment methods are required to augment the ICI response rate within BLCA patients. It has been shown that the infiltration of T-cells into the tumor microenvironment (TME) is positively correlated with the response to ICT within cancerous patients. Therefore, the goal of this study is to enhance the infiltration of cytotoxic T-cells into TME through the identification of target genes within the tumor that are responsible for the non-T-cell inflamed TME and their inhibition. BLCA bulk RNA-sequencing data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and immune score for TCGA samples were used to determine the Pearson correlation score between the expression of different genes and immune score for each sample. The genes with strong negative correlations were selected (r < -0.2). Thereafter, the correlation between the expression of each gene and survival in BLCA patients was calculated using the TCGA data and Cox regression method. The genes that are common in both selected gene lists were chosen for further analysis. Afterward, BLCA bulk and single-cell RNA-sequencing data were ranked based on the expression of each selected gene and the top and bottom 25% samples were used for pathway enrichment analysis. If the pathways related to the T-cell infiltration (e.g., antigen presentation, interferon, or chemokine pathways) were enriched within the low-expression group, the gene was included for downstream analysis. Finally, the selected genes will be used to calculate the correlation between their expression and the infiltration rate of the activated CD+8 T-cells, natural killer cells and the activated dendric cells. A list of potential target genes has been identified and ranked based on the above-mentioned analysis and criteria. SUN-1 got the highest score within the gene list and other identified genes in the literature as benchmarks. In conclusion, inhibition of SUN1 may increase the tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and the efficacy of ICI in BLCA patients. BLCA tumor cells with and without SUN-1 CRISPR/Cas9 knockout will be injected into the syngeneic mouse model to validate the predicted SUN-1 effect on increasing tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.

Keywords: data analysis, gene expression analysis, gene identification, immunoinformatic, functional genomics, transcriptomics

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1 Single Pass Design of Genetic Circuits Using Absolute Binding Free Energy Measurements and Dimensionless Analysis

Authors: Iman Farasat, Howard M. Salis


Engineered genetic circuits reprogram cellular behavior to act as living computers with applications in detecting cancer, creating self-controlling artificial tissues, and dynamically regulating metabolic pathways. Phenemenological models are often used to simulate and design genetic circuit behavior towards a desired behavior. While such models assume that each circuit component’s function is modular and independent, even small changes in a circuit (e.g. a new promoter, a change in transcription factor expression level, or even a new media) can have significant effects on the circuit’s function. Here, we use statistical thermodynamics to account for the several factors that control transcriptional regulation in bacteria, and experimentally demonstrate the model’s accuracy across 825 measurements in several genetic contexts and hosts. We then employ our first principles model to design, experimentally construct, and characterize a family of signal amplifying genetic circuits (genetic OpAmps) that expand the dynamic range of cell sensors. To develop these models, we needed a new approach to measuring the in vivo binding free energies of transcription factors (TFs), a key ingredient of statistical thermodynamic models of gene regulation. We developed a new high-throughput assay to measure RNA polymerase and TF binding free energies, requiring the construction and characterization of only a few constructs and data analysis (Figure 1A). We experimentally verified the assay on 6 TetR-homolog repressors and a CRISPR/dCas9 guide RNA. We found that our binding free energy measurements quantitatively explains why changing TF expression levels alters circuit function. Altogether, by combining these measurements with our biophysical model of translation (the RBS Calculator) as well as other measurements (Figure 1B), our model can account for changes in TF binding sites, TF expression levels, circuit copy number, host genome size, and host growth rate (Figure 1C). Model predictions correctly accounted for how these 8 factors control a promoter’s transcription rate (Figure 1D). Using the model, we developed a design framework for engineering multi-promoter genetic circuits that greatly reduces the number of degrees of freedom (8 factors per promoter) to a single dimensionless unit. We propose the Ptashne (Pt) number to encapsulate the 8 co-dependent factors that control transcriptional regulation into a single number. Therefore, a single number controls a promoter’s output rather than these 8 co-dependent factors, and designing a genetic circuit with N promoters requires specification of only N Pt numbers. We demonstrate how to design genetic circuits in Pt number space by constructing and characterizing 15 2-repressor OpAmp circuits that act as signal amplifiers when within an optimal Pt region. We experimentally show that OpAmp circuits using different TFs and TF expression levels will only amplify the dynamic range of input signals when their corresponding Pt numbers are within the optimal region. Thus, the use of the Pt number greatly simplifies the genetic circuit design, particularly important as circuits employ more TFs to perform increasingly complex functions.

Keywords: transcription factor, synthetic biology, genetic circuit, biophysical model, binding energy measurement

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