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.
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.