In microbial communities, bacterial populations are commonly controlled using indiscriminate, broad range antibiotics. There are few ways to target specific strains effectively without disrupting the entire microbiome and local environment. Here we use conjugation, a natural DNA horizontal transfer process among bacterial species, to deliver an engineered CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) system for targeting specific genes in recipient Escherichia coli cells. We show that delivery of the CRISPRi system is successful and can specifically repress a reporter gene in recipient cells, thereby establishing a new tool for gene regulation across bacterial cells and potentially for bacterial population control.
Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is an aggressive myeloproliferative neoplasm of childhood associated with a poor prognosis. Recently, massively parallel sequencing has identified recurrent mutations in the SKI domain of SETBP1 in a variety of myeloid disorders. These lesions were detected in nearly 10% of patients with JMML and have been characterized as secondary events. We hypothesized that rare subclones with SETBP1 mutations are present at diagnosis in a large portion of patients who relapse, but are below the limits of detection for conventional deep sequencing platforms. Using droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) we identified SETBP1 mutations in 17/56 (30%) of patients who were treated on Children's Oncology Group sponsored clinical trial, AAML0122. Five-year event free survival (EFS) in patients with SETBP1 mutations was 18% ± 9% compared to 51% ± 8% for those without mutations (p=0.006).
Expression of foreign pathways often results in suboptimal performance due to unintended factors such as introduction of toxic metabolites, cofactor imbalances or poor expression of pathway components. In this study we report a 120% improvement in the production of the isoprenoid-derived sesquiterpene, amorphadiene, produced by an engineered strain of Escherichia coli developed to express the native seven-gene mevalonate pathway from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Martin et al. 2003). This substantial improvement was made by varying only a single component of the pathway (HMG-CoA reductase) and subsequent host optimization to improve cofactor availability. We characterized and tested five variant HMG-CoA reductases obtained from publicly available genome databases with differing kinetic properties and cofactor requirements. The results of our in vitro and in vivo analyses of these enzymes implicate substrate inhibition of mevalonate kinase as an important factor in optimization of the engineered mevalonate pathway. Consequently, the NADH-dependent HMG-CoA reductase from Delftia acidovorans, which appeared to have the optimal kinetic parameters to balance HMG-CoA levels below the cellular toxicity threshold of E. coli and those of mevalonate below inhibitory concentrations for mevalonate kinase, was identified as the best producer for amorphadiene (54% improvement over the native pathway enzyme, resulting in 2.5mM or 520 mg/L of amorphadiene after 48 h). We further enhanced performance of the strain bearing the D. acidovorans HMG-CoA reductase by increasing the intracellular levels of its preferred cofactor (NADH) using a NAD(+)-dependent formate dehydrogenase from Candida boidinii, along with formate supplementation. This resulted in an overall improvement of the system by 120% resulting in 3.5mM or 700 mg/L amorphadiene after 48 h of fermentation. This comprehensive study incorporated analysis of several key parameters for metabolic design such as in vitro and in vivo kinetic performance of variant enzymes, intracellular levels of protein expression, in-pathway substrate inhibition and cofactor management to enable the observed improvements. These metrics may be applied to a broad range of heterologous pathways for improving the production of biologically derived compounds.
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