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A copper-controlled RNA interference system for reversible silencing of target genes in Trichoderma reesei

Wang, Lei, Zheng, Fanglin, Zhang, Weixin, Zhong, Yaohua, Chen, Guanjun, Meng, Xiangfeng, Liu, Weifeng
Biotechnology for biofuels 2018 v.11 no.1 pp. 33
RNA interference, Trichoderma reesei, biotechnology, copper, cost effectiveness, endo-1,4-beta-glucanase, eukaryotic cells, fungi, gene targeting, genes, genetic engineering, industry, lignocellulose, nutrition, phenotype, synthetic biology
BACKGROUND: Trichoderma reesei is a primary lignocellulosic enzyme producer in industry. However, the mechanisms underlying cellulase synthesis as well as other physiological processes are insufficiently understood partly due to the sophisticated process for its genetic manipulation. Target gene knockdown by RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful tool for genetic research and biotechnology in eukaryotes including filamentous fungi. Previously reported RNAi system in T. reesei was either uncontrollable or only applicable in certain nutrition state. RESULTS: In the present study, we incorporated the copper-responsive tcu1 promoter into an RNAi-mediated silencing system to develop a controllable RNAi-mediated silencing system in T. reesei. As the proof-of-concept, a prototrophic pyr4 gene, highly expressed cel7a and xyr1 genes induced by Avicel and a fab1 gene, whose knockout has proved to be intractable, were successfully knocked down in the absence of copper when the respective RNAi fragment was expressed. Importantly, the phenotype of RNAi strains was shown to be reversed easily to mimic the complementation for excluding any unwanted effects resulted from the random integration of the hpRNA cassette by adding copper in the media. Thus, this controllable RNAi-mediated silencing system can be turned on and turned off only depending on the absence and presence of copper ions in the media, respectively, and not on the nutritional states. CONCLUSIONS: The copper-controlled RNA interference system represents an effective tool for reversible silencing of target genes in T. reesei. This reported strategy to conditionally knock down or turn off genes will contribute to our understanding of T. reesei gene functions, especially those that are difficult to be knocked out due to various reasons. In addition, this simple and cost-effective method holds great potential for the application in synthetic biology and genetic engineering of T. reesei.