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Biochemistry and molecular biology education : a bimonthly publication of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Discovery of Escherichia coli CRISPR sequences in an undergraduate laboratory.


PMID 27677251

Abstract

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) represent a novel type of adaptive immune system found in eubacteria and archaebacteria. CRISPRs have recently generated a lot of attention due to their unique ability to catalog foreign nucleic acids, their ability to destroy foreign nucleic acids in a mechanism that shares some similarity to RNA interference, and the ability to utilize reconstituted CRISPR systems for genome editing in numerous organisms. In order to introduce CRISPR biology into an undergraduate upper-level laboratory, a five-week set of exercises was designed to allow students to examine the CRISPR status of uncharacterized Escherichia coli strains and to allow the discovery of new repeats and spacers. Students started the project by isolating genomic DNA from E. coli and amplifying the iap CRISPR locus using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The PCR products were analyzed by Sanger DNA sequencing, and the sequences were examined for the presence of CRISPR repeat sequences. The regions between the repeats, the spacers, were extracted and analyzed with BLASTN searches. Overall, CRISPR loci were sequenced from several previously uncharacterized E. coli strains and one E. coli K-12 strain. Sanger DNA sequencing resulted in the discovery of 36 spacer sequences and their corresponding surrounding repeat sequences. Five of the spacers were homologous to foreign (non-E. coli) DNA. Assessment of the laboratory indicates that improvements were made in the ability of students to answer questions relating to the structure and function of CRISPRs. Future directions of the laboratory are presented and discussed. © 2016 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 45(3):262-269, 2017.