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Programmable activation of Bombyx gene expression using CRISPR/dCas9 fusion systems

Wang, Xiao‐Gang, Ma, San‐Yuan, Chang, Jia‐Song, Shi, Run, Wang, Ruo‐Lin, Zhao, Ping, Xia, Qing‐You
Insect science 2019 v.26 no.6 pp. 983-990
Bombyx mori, CRISPR-associated proteins, Francisella, Prevotella, Streptococcus pyogenes, complementary DNA, gene editing, gene expression, genes, herpes simplex, mammals, mutation, nucleases, nucleotide sequences, silkworms, transactivators, transcriptional activation
The recently developed clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)‐based techniques have made it possible to reprogram target gene expression without cloning complementary DNA or disturbing genomic sequence in mammalian cells and several multicellular organisms. We previously showed that CRISPR‐associated protein 9 (Cas9) and CRISPR from Prevotella and Francisella 1 (Cpf1) could induce target mutations, deletions, inversions, and duplications both singly and multiplex in silkworm, Bombyx mori. However, it remains unknown whether the CRISPR activation (CRISPRa) system can be used in B. mori. In this study, we investigated the CRISPRa system, in which a nuclease dead Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) is fused to two transcription activation domains, including VP64 (a tetramer of the herpes simplex VP16 transcriptional activator domain), and VPR (a tripartite activator, composed of VP64, p65, and Rta). The results showed that both dCas9‐VP64 and dCas9‐VPR systems could be used in B. mori cells, of which the latter showed significantly higher activity. The dCas9‐VPR system showed considerable activity on all five tested target genes, and further analysis revealed that the up‐regulation of genes was negatively correlated to their basal expression level. We also observed that this system could be used to upregulate a range of target genes. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that CRISPRa can be a powerful tool to study gene functions in B. mori and perhaps other non‐drosophila insects.