Scientists harness the naturally abundant CRISPR-Cas system to edit superbugs with the hope of treating infections caused by drug resistant pathogens

A analysis workforce led by Dr Aixin YAN, Affiliate Professor from the Analysis Division for Molecular & Cell Biology, College of Science, in collaboration with Honorary Scientific Professor Patrick CY WOO from the Division of Microbiology, Li Ka Shing College of Drugs, the College of Hong Kong (HKU), reported the event of a transferrable and integrative sort I CRISPR-based platform that may effectively edit the varied scientific isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a superbug able to infecting varied tissues and organs and a significant supply of nosocomial infections. The method can speed up the identification of resistance determinants of multidrug resistant (MDR) pathogens and the event of novel anti-resistance methods.

The analysis opened a brand new avenue to genomically edit these wild bacterial species and isolates, resembling these with scientific and environmental significance and people forming human microbiome. It additionally offered a framework to harness different CRISPR-Cas methods widespread in prokaryotic genomes and develop the CRISPR-based toolkits. The analysis has been printed within the main science journal Nucleic Acids Analysis.


CRISPR-Cas system contains the adaptive immune system in prokaryotes that disarms invading viruses by cleaving their DNA. Owing to its distinctive functionality of focusing on and altering DNA sequences, CRISPR-Cas has been exploited because the next-generation genome enhancing technique. The tactic is predicated on the Class 2 sort II CRISPR/Cas9 system, which has revolutionised genetics and biomedical analysis in a plethora of organisms and was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Nevertheless, the Class 2 CRISPR-Cas methods signify solely ?10% of the CRISPR-Cas methods encoded naturally in prokaryotes. Their purposes to edit bacterial genomes are relatively restricted.

Remarkably, CRISPR-Cas methods belonging to completely different lessons and kinds are constantly recognized, and so they function a deep reservoir for the growth of the CRISPR-based toolkits. Probably the most numerous and extensively distributed CRISPR-Cas methods is the sort I system which accounts for 50% of all CRISPR-Cas methods recognized and has the potential to develop the CRISPR-based toolkits with distinctive benefits not accessible with the category 2 methods, resembling excessive specificity, minimal off-targeting, and able to massive fragment deletions. Nevertheless, sort I CRISPR-Cas system hinges on a multi-component effector complicated termed as Cascade to intrude DNA which isn’t readily transferrable to heterologous hosts, hindering the widespread utility of those naturally considerable CRISPR for genome enhancing and therapeutics.

Key findings

Beforehand, the workforce has recognized a extremely lively sort I-F CRISPR-Cas system in a scientific multidrug resistant P. aeruginosa pressure PA154197 which was remoted from a bloodstream an infection case in Queen Mary Hospital. They characterised this CRISPR-Cas system and efficiently developed a genome-editing technique relevant within the MDR isolate based mostly on this native sort I-F CRISPR-Cas system. The tactic enabled fast identification of the resistance determinants of the MDR scientific isolate and the event of a novel anti-resistance technique (Cell Experiences, 2019, 29, 1707-1717).

To beat the barrier of transferring the complicated sort I Cascade to heterologous hosts, on this research, the workforce cloned your complete sort I-F cas operon into an integration proficient vector mini-CTX and delivered the cassette into heterologous hosts by conjugation, a DNA switch method frequent in nature. The mini-CTX vector enabled the mixing of your complete Cascade onto the conserved attB genetic locus within the genome of the heterologous hosts, enabling them to harbour a “native” sort I-F CRISPR-Cas system that may be stably expressed and performance. The workforce confirmed that the transferred sort I-F Cascade shows a considerably larger DNA interference capability and better pressure stability than the transferrable Cas9 system and may be employed for genome enhancing with effectivity (>80%) and ease, i.e. by a one-step transformation of a single enhancing plasmid.

Moreover, they developed a sophisticated transferrable system that features each a extremely lively sort I-F Cascade and a recombinase to advertise the applying of the system in strains with a poor homologous recombination capability, wild P. aeruginosa isolates with out genome sequence data, and in different Pseudomonas species. Lastly, the launched sort I-F Cascade genes may be readily faraway from the host genomes by means of the I-F Cascade-mediated deletion of enormous DNA fragments, leading to scarless genome enhancing within the host cells. The applying of the transferrable system for gene repression was additionally demonstrated, highlighting the strong and numerous purposes of the developed transferrable sort I-F CRISPR system.

Dr Aixin Yan predicted that this novel technique can be prolonged to enhancing not solely pathogens but additionally microbiome to advertise human well being, she mentioned: “We imagine that CRISPR-based expertise and therapies will deliver new hopes to combatting superbugs sooner or later.”


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