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Escherichia coli Cas1/2 Endonuclease Complex Modifies Self-Targeting CRISPR/Cascade Spacers Reducing Silencing Guide Stability

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posted on 17.12.2020, 13:38 by Zhixia Ye, Eirik A. Moreb, Shuai Li, Juliana Lebeau, Romel Menacho-Melgar, Matthew Munson, Michael D. Lynch
CRISPR-based interference has become common in various applications from genetic circuits to dynamic metabolic control. In E. coli, the native CRISPR Cascade system can be utilized for silencing by deletion of the cas3 nuclease along with expression of guide RNA arrays, where multiple genes can be silenced from a single transcript. We notice the loss of spacer sequences from guide arrays utilized for dynamic silencing. We report that unstable guide arrays are due to expression of the Cas1/2 endonuclease complex. We propose a model wherein basal Cas1/2 endonuclease activity results in the loss of spacers from guide arrays. Subsequently, mutant guide arrays can be amplified through selection. Replacing a constitutive promoter driving Cascade complex expression with a tightly controlled inducible promoter improves guide array stability, while minimizing leaky gene silencing. Additionally, these results demonstrate the potential of Cas1/2 mediated guide deletion as a mechanism to avoid CRISPR based autoimmunity.

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