RNA-guided transcriptional activation via CRISPR/dCas9 mimics overexpression phenotypes in Arabidopsis
by Jong-Jin Park, Emma Dempewolf, Wenzheng Zhang, Zeng-Yu WangClustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and the CRISPR associated protein 9 (Cas9) system allows effective gene modification through RNA-guided DNA targeting. The Cas9 has undergone a series of functional alterations from the original active endonuclease to partially or completely deactivated Cas9. The catalytically deactivated Cas9 (dCas9) offers a platform to regulate transcriptional expression with the addition of activator or repressor domains. We redesigned a CRISPR/Cas9 activation system by adding the p65 transactivating subunit of NF-kappa B and a heat-shock factor 1 (HSF) activation domain to dCas9 bound with the VP64 (tetramer of VP16) activation domain for application in plants. The redesigned CRISPR/Cas9 activation system was tested in Arabidopsis to increase endogenous transcriptional levels of production of anthocyanin pigment 1 (PAP1) and Arabidopsis thaliana vacuolar H+-pyrophosphatase (AVP1). The expression of PAP1 was increased two- to three-fold and the activated plants exhibited purple leaves similar to that of PAP1 overexpressors. The AVP1 gene expression was increased two- to five-fold in transgenic plants. In comparison to the wild type, AVP1 activated plants had increased leaf numbers, larger single-leaf areas and improved tolerance to drought stress. The AVP1 activated plants showed similar phenotypes to AVP1 overexpressors. Therefore, the redesigned CRISPR/Cas9 activation system containing modified p65-HSF provides a simple approach for producing activated plants by upregulating endogenous transcriptional levels.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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