Manipulation of gene expression is one of the best approaches for studying gene function in vivo. CRISPR-Cas13 has the potential to be a powerful technique for manipulating RNA expression in diverse animal systems in vivo, including Drosophila melanogaster. Studies using Cas13 in mammalian cell lines for gene knockdown showed increased on-target efficiency and decreased off-targeting relative to RNAi. Moreover, catalytically inactive Cas13 fusions can be used to image RNA molecules, install precise changes to the epitranscriptome, or alter splicing. However, recent studies have suggested that there may be limitations to the deployment of these tools in Drosophila, so further optimization of the system is required. Here, we report a new set of PspCas13b and RfxCas13d expression constructs and use these reagents to successfully knockdown both reporter and endogenous transcripts in Drosophila cells. As toxicity issues have been reported with high level of Cas13, we effectively decreased PspCas13b expression without impairing its function by tuning down translation. Furthermore, we altered the spatial activity of both PspCas13b and RfxCas13d by introducing Nuclear Exportation Sequences (NES) and Nuclear Localization Sequences (NLS) while maintaining activity. Finally, we generated a stable cell line expressing RfxCas13d under the inducible metallothionein promoter, establishing a useful tool for high-throughput genetic screening. Thus, we report new reagents for performing RNA CRISPR-Cas13 experiments in Drosophila, providing additional Cas13 expression constructs that retain activity.
Expansion of the available repertoire of reagents for visualization and manipulation of proteins will help understand their function. Short epitope tags installed on proteins of interest and recognized by existing binders such as nanobodies facilitate protein studies by obviating the need to isolate new antibodies directed against them. Nanobodies have several advantages over conventional antibodies, as they can be expressed and used as tools for visualization and manipulation of proteins in vivo. Here, we combine the advantages of short epitopes (NanoTags) and nanobodies specific for them by characterizing two short (<15 aa) tags, 127D01 and VHH05, which are high-affinity targets of nanobodies. We demonstrate that these NanoTags and the nanobodies that recognize them can be used in Drosophila for in vivo protein detection and re-localization, direct and indirect immunofluorescence, immunoblotting, and immunoprecipitation. We further show that CRISPR-mediated gene targeting provides a straightforward approach to tagging endogenous proteins with the NanoTags. Single copies of the NanoTags, regardless of their location, suffice for detection. This versatile and validated toolbox of tags and nanobodies will serve as a resource for a wide array of applications, including functional studies in Drosophila and beyond.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
Precise genome editing is a valuable tool to study gene function in model organisms. Prime editing, a precise editing system developed in mammalian cells, does not require double-strand breaks or donor DNA and has low off-target effects. Here, we applied prime editing for the model organism Drosophila melanogaster and developed conditions for optimal editing. By expressing prime editing components in cultured cells or somatic cells of transgenic flies, we precisely introduce premature stop codons in three classical visible marker genes, ebony, white, and forked Furthermore, by restricting editing to germ cells, we demonstrate efficient germ-line transmission of a precise edit in ebony to 36% of progeny. Our results suggest that prime editing is a useful system in Drosophila to study gene function, such as engineering precise point mutations, deletions, or epitope tags.
Jonathan Zirin, Yanhui Hu, Luping Liu, Donghui Yang-Zhou, Ryan Colbeth, Dong Yan, Ben Ewen-Campen, Rong Tao, Eric Vogt, Sara VanNest, Cooper Cavers, Christians Villalta, Aram Comjean, Jin Sun, Xia Wang, Yu Jia, Ruibao Zhu, Ping Peng, Jinchao Yu, Da Shen, Yuhao Qiu, Limmond Ayisi, Henna Ragoowansi, Ethan Fenton, Senait Efrem, Annette Parks, Kuniaki Saito, Shu Kondo, Liz Perkins, Stephanie E Mohr, Jianquan Ni, and Norbert Perrimon. 2020. “Large-Scale Transgenic Resource Collections for Loss- and Gain-of-Function Studies.” Genetics.Abstract
The Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP), a functional genomics platform at Harvard Medical School, was initiated in 2008 to generate and distribute a genome-scale collection of RNAi fly stocks. To date, the TRiP has generated >15,000 RNAi fly stocks. As this covers most genes, we have largely transitioned to development of new resources based on CRISPR technology. Here, we present an update on our libraries of publicly available RNAi and CRISPR fly stocks, and focus on the TRiP-CRISPR overexpression (TRiP-OE) and TRiP-CRISPR knockout (TRiP-KO) collections. TRiP-OE stocks express sgRNAs targeting upstream of a gene transcription start site. Gene activation is triggered by co-expression of catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9) fused to an activator domain, either VP64-p65-Rta (VPR) or Synergistic Activation Mediator (SAM). TRiP-KO stocks express one or two sgRNAs targeting the coding sequence of a gene or genes. Cutting is triggered by co-expression of Cas9, allowing for generation of indels in both germline and somatic tissue. To date, we have generated more than 5,000 CRISPR-OE or -KO stocks for the community. These resources provide versatile, transformative tools for gene activation, gene repression, and genome engineering.
We previously reported a CRISPR-mediated knock-in strategy into introns of genes, generating an - transgenic library for multiple uses (Lee et al., 2018b). The method relied on double stranded DNA (dsDNA) homology donors with ~1 kb homology arms. Here, we describe three new simpler ways to edit genes in flies. We create single stranded DNA (ssDNA) donors using PCR and add 100 nt of homology on each side of an integration cassette, followed by enzymatic removal of one strand. Using this method, we generated GFP-tagged proteins that mark organelles in S2 cells. We then describe two dsDNA methods using cheap synthesized donors flanked by 100 nt homology arms and gRNA target sites cloned into a plasmid. Upon injection, donor DNA (1 to 5 kb) is released from the plasmid by Cas9. The cassette integrates efficiently and precisely . The approach is fast, cheap, and scalable.
Single-gene knockout experiments can fail to reveal function in the context of redundancy, which is frequently observed among duplicated genes (paralogs) with overlapping functions. We discuss the complexity associated with studying paralogs and outline how recent advances in CRISPR will help address the "phenotype gap" and impact biomedical research.
Our understanding of the genetic mechanisms that underlie biological processes has relied extensively on loss-of-function (LOF) analyses. LOF methods target DNA, RNA or protein to reduce or to ablate gene function. By analysing the phenotypes that are caused by these perturbations the wild-type function of genes can be elucidated. Although all LOF methods reduce gene activity, the choice of approach (for example, mutagenesis, CRISPR-based gene editing, RNA interference, morpholinos or pharmacological inhibition) can have a major effect on phenotypic outcomes. Interpretation of the LOF phenotype must take into account the biological process that is targeted by each method. The practicality and efficiency of LOF methods also vary considerably between model systems. We describe parameters for choosing the optimal combination of method and system, and for interpreting phenotypes within the constraints of each method.
The rapid rise of CRISPR as a technology for genome engineering and related research applications has created a need for algorithms and associated online tools that facilitate design of on-target and effective guide RNAs (gRNAs). Here, we review the state-of-the-art in CRISPR gRNA design for research applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, including knockout, activation and inhibition. Notably, achieving good gRNA design is not solely dependent on innovations in CRISPR technology. Good design and design tools also rely on availability of high-quality genome sequence and gene annotations, as well as on availability of accumulated data regarding off-targets and effectiveness metrics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
A number of approaches for Cas9-mediated transcriptional activation have recently been developed, allowing target genes to be overexpressed from their endogenous genomic loci. However, these approaches have thus far been limited to cell culture, and this technique has not been demonstrated in vivo in any animal. The technique involving the fewest separate components, and therefore the most amenable to in vivo applications, is the dCas9-VPR system, where a nuclease-dead Cas9 is fused to a highly active chimeric activator domain. In this study, we characterize the dCas9-VPR system in Drosophila cells and in vivo. We show that this system can be used in cell culture to upregulate a range of target genes, singly and in multiplex, and that a single guide RNA upstream of the transcription start site can activate high levels of target transcription. We observe marked heterogeneity in guide RNA efficacy for any given gene, and we confirm that transcription is inhibited by guide RNAs binding downstream of the transcription start site. To demonstrate one application of this technique in cells, we used dCas9-VPR to identify target genes for Twist and Snail, two highly conserved transcription factors that cooperate during Drosophila mesoderm development. In addition, we simultaneously activated both Twist and Snail to identify synergistic responses to this physiologically relevant combination. Finally, we show that dCas9-VPR can activate target genes and cause dominant phenotypes in vivo, providing the first demonstration of dCas9 activation in a multicellular animal. Transcriptional activation using dCas9-VPR thus offers a simple and broadly applicable technique for a variety of overexpression studies.
Our ability to modify the Drosophila genome has recently been revolutionized by the development of the CRISPR system. The simplicity and high efficiency of this system allows its widespread use for many different applications, greatly increasing the range of genome modification experiments that can be performed. Here, we first discuss some general design principles for genome engineering experiments in Drosophila and then present detailed protocols for the production of CRISPR reagents and screening strategies to detect successful genome modification events in both tissue culture cells and animals.
The ability to engineer genomes in a specific, systematic, and cost-effective way is critical for functional genomic studies. Recent advances using the CRISPR-associated single-guide RNA system (Cas9/sgRNA) illustrate the potential of this simple system for genome engineering in a number of organisms. Here we report an effective and inexpensive method for genome DNA editing in Drosophila melanogaster whereby plasmid DNAs encoding short sgRNAs under the control of the U6b promoter are injected into transgenic flies in which Cas9 is specifically expressed in the germ line via the nanos promoter. We evaluate the off-targets associated with the method and establish a Web-based resource, along with a searchable, genome-wide database of predicted sgRNAs appropriate for genome engineering in flies. Finally, we discuss the advantages of our method in comparison with other recently published approaches.