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  1. Atomi, Haruyuki (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT CRISPR-based systems are emerging as the premier method to manipulate many cellular processes. In this study, a simple and efficient CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) system for targeted gene repression in archaea was developed. The Methanosarcina acetivorans CRISPR-Cas9 system was repurposed by replacing Cas9 with the catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9) to generate a CRISPRi-dCas9 system for targeted gene repression. To test the utility of the system, genes involved in nitrogen (N 2 ) fixation were targeted for dCas9-mediated repression. First, the nif operon ( nifHI 1 I 2 DKEN ) that encodes molybdenum nitrogenase was targeted by separate guide RNAs (gRNAs), one targeting the promoter and the other targeting nifD . Remarkably, growth of M. acetivorans with N 2 was abolished by dCas9-mediated repression of the nif operon with each gRNA. The abundance of nif transcripts was >90% reduced in both strains expressing the gRNAs, and NifD was not detected in cell lysate. Next, we targeted NifB, which is required for nitrogenase cofactor biogenesis. Expression of a gRNA targeting the coding sequence of NifB decreased nifB transcript abundance >85% and impaired but did not abolish growth of M. acetivorans with N 2 . Finally, to ascertain the ability to study genemore »regulation using CRISPRi-dCas9, nrpR1 , encoding a subunit of the repressor of the nif operon, was targeted. The nrpR1 repression strain grew normally with N 2 but had increased nif operon transcript abundance, consistent with NrpR1 acting as a repressor. These results highlight the utility of the system, whereby a single gRNA when expressed with dCas9 can block transcription of targeted genes and operons in M. acetivorans . IMPORTANCE Genetic tools are needed to understand and manipulate the biology of archaea, which serve critical roles in the biosphere. Methanogenic archaea (methanogens) are essential for the biological production of methane, an intermediate in the global carbon cycle, an important greenhouse gas, and a biofuel. The CRISPRi-dCas9 system in the model methanogen Methanosarcina acetivorans is, to our knowledge, the first Cas9-based CRISPR interference system in archaea. Results demonstrate that the system is remarkably efficient in targeted gene repression and provide new insight into nitrogen fixation by methanogens, the only archaea with nitrogenase. Overall, the CRISPRi-dCas9 system provides a simple, yet powerful, genetic tool to control the expression of target genes and operons in methanogens.« less