CRISPRi–sRNA: Transcriptional–Translational Regulation of Extracellular Electron Transfer in Shewanella oneidensis

Extracellular electron transfer (EET) in Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, which is one of the most well-studied exoelectrogens, underlies many microbial electrocatalysis processes, including microbial fuel cells, microbial electrolysis cells, and microbial electrosynthesis. However, regulating the efficiency of EET remains challenging due to the lack of efficient genome regulation tools that regulate gene expression levels in S. oneidensis. Here, we systematically established a transcriptional regulation technology, i.e., clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats interference (CRISPRi), in S. oneidensis MR-1 using green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a reporter. We used this CRISPRi technology to repress the expression levels of target genes, individually and in combination, in the EET pathways (e.g., the MtrCAB pathway and genes affecting the formation of electroactive biofilms in S. oneidensis), which in turn enabled the efficient regulation of EET efficiency. We then established a translational regulation technology, i.e., Hfq-dependent small regulatory RNA (sRNA), in S. oneidensis by repressing the GFP reporter and mtrA, which is a critical gene in the EET pathways in S. oneidensis. To achieve coordinated transcriptional and translational regulation at the genomic level, the CRISPRi and Hfq-dependent sRNA systems were incorporated into a single plasmid harbored in a recombinant S. oneidensis strain, which enabled an even higher efficiency of mtrA gene repression in the EET pathways than that achieved by the CRISPRi and Hfq-dependent sRNA system alone, as exhibited by the reduced electricity output. Overall, we developed a combined CRISPRi–sRNA method that enabled the synergistic transcriptional and translational regulation of target genes in S. oneidensis. This technology involving CRISPRi–sRNA transcriptional–translational regulation of gene expression at the genomic level could be applied to other microorganisms.