Senior Research Scientist, Biology
A CRISPR interference platform for selective downregulation of gene expression in Borrelia burgdorferi.
Applied and environmental microbiology
The spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease, an increasingly prevalent infection. While previous studies have provided important insight into B. burgdorferi biology, many aspects, including basic cellular processes, remain underexplored. To help speed up the discovery process, we adapted a CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) platform for use in B. burgdorferi For efficiency and flexibility of use, we generated various CRISPRi template constructs that produce different basal and induced levels of dcas9 and carry different antibiotic resistance markers. We characterized the effectiveness of our CRISPRi platform by targeting the motility and cell morphogenesis genes flaB, mreB, rodA, and ftsI, whose native expression levels span two orders of magnitude. For all four genes, we obtained gene repression efficiencies of at least 95%. We showed by darkfield microscopy and cryo-electron tomography that flagellin (FlaB) depletion reduced the length and number of periplasmic flagella, which impaired cellular motility and resulted in cell straightening. Depletion of FtsI caused cell filamentation, implicating this protein in cell division in B. burgdorferi Finally, localized cell bulging in MreB- and RodA-depleted cells matched the locations of new peptidoglycan insertion specific to spirochetes of the Borrelia genus. These results therefore implicate MreB and RodA in the particular mode of cell wall elongation of these bacteria. Collectively, our results demonstrate the efficiency and ease of use of our B. burgdorferi CRISPRi platform, which should facilitate future genetic studies of this important pathogen.IMPORTANCE Gene function studies are facilitated by the availability of rapid and easy-to-use genetic tools. Homologous recombination-based methods traditionally used to genetically investigate gene function remain cumbersome to perform in B. burgdorferi, as they often are relatively inefficient. In comparison, our CRISPRi platform offers an easy and fast method to implement as it only requires a single plasmid transformation step and IPTG addition to obtain potent (>95%) downregulation of gene expression. To facilitate studies of various genes in wild-type and genetically modified strains, we provide over 30 CRISPRi plasmids that produce distinct levels of dcas9 expression and carry different antibiotic resistance markers. Our CRISPRi platform represents a useful and efficient complement to traditional genetic and chemical methods to study gene function in B. burgdorferi.
View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.02519-20
View details for PubMedID 33257311
Long-Distance Cooperative and Antagonistic RNA Polymerase Dynamics via DNA Supercoiling
2019; 179 (1): 106-+
Genes are often transcribed by multiple RNA polymerases (RNAPs) at densities that can vary widely across genes and environmental conditions. Here, we provide in vitro and in vivo evidence for a built-in mechanism by which co-transcribing RNAPs display either collaborative or antagonistic dynamics over long distances (>2 kb) through transcription-induced DNA supercoiling. In Escherichia coli, when the promoter is active, co-transcribing RNAPs translocate faster than a single RNAP, but their average speed is not altered by large variations in promoter strength and thus RNAP density. Environmentally induced promoter repression reduces the elongation efficiency of already-loaded RNAPs, causing premature termination and quick synthesis arrest of no-longer-needed proteins. This negative effect appears independent of RNAP convoy formation and is abrogated by topoisomerase I activity. Antagonistic dynamics can also occur between RNAPs from divergently transcribed gene pairs. Our findings may be broadly applicable given that transcription on topologically constrained DNA is the norm across organisms.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2019.08.033
View details for Web of Science ID 000486618500017
View details for PubMedID 31539491