ACS synthetic biology

Efficient Genome Editing of a Facultative Thermophile Using Mesophilic spCas9.

PMID 28146359


Well-developed genetic tools for thermophilic microorganisms are scarce, despite their industrial and scientific relevance. Whereas highly efficient CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing is on the rise in prokaryotes, it has never been employed in a thermophile. Here, we apply Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (spCas9)-based genome editing to a moderate thermophile, i.e., Bacillus smithii, including a gene deletion, gene knockout via insertion of premature stop codons, and gene insertion. We show that spCas9 is inactive in vivo above 42 °C, and we employ the wide temperature growth range of B. smithii as an induction system for spCas9 expression. Homologous recombination with plasmid-borne editing templates is performed at 45-55 °C, when spCas9 is inactive. Subsequent transfer to 37 °C allows for counterselection through production of active spCas9, which introduces lethal double-stranded DNA breaks to the nonedited cells. The developed method takes 4 days with 90, 100, and 20% efficiencies for gene deletion, knockout, and insertion, respectively. The major advantage of our system is the limited requirement for genetic parts: only one plasmid, one selectable marker, and a promoter are needed, and the promoter does not need to be inducible or well-characterized. Hence, it can be easily applied for genome editing purposes in both mesophilic and thermophilic nonmodel organisms with a limited genetic toolbox and ability to grow at, or tolerate, temperatures of 37 and at or above 42 °C.