CRISPR/Cas9-based transcriptional activation (CRISPRa) has recently emerged as a powerful and scalable technique for systematic overexpression genetic analysis in We present flySAM, a potent tool for in vivo CRISPRa, which offers major improvements over existing strategies in terms of effectiveness, scalability, and ease of use. flySAM outperforms existing in vivo CRISPRa strategies and approximates phenotypes obtained using traditional Gal4-UAS overexpression. Moreover, because flySAM typically requires only a single sgRNA, it dramatically improves scalability. We use flySAM to demonstrate multiplexed CRISPRa, which has not been previously shown in vivo. In addition, we have simplified the experimental use of flySAM by creating a single vector encoding both the UAS:Cas9-activator and the sgRNA, allowing for inducible CRISPRa in a single genetic cross. flySAM will replace previous CRISPRa strategies as the basis of our growing genome-wide transgenic overexpression resource, TRiP-OE.
While several large-scale resources are available for in vivo loss-of-function studies in Drosophila, an analogous resource for overexpressing genes from their endogenous loci does not exist. We describe a strategy for generating such a resource using Cas9 transcriptional activators (CRISPRa). First, we compare a panel of CRISPRa approaches and demonstrate that, for in vivo studies, dCas9-VPR is the most optimal activator. Next, we demonstrate that this approach is scalable and has a high success rate, as >75% of the lines tested activate their target gene. We show that CRISPRa leads to physiologically relevant levels of target gene expression capable of generating strong gain-of-function (GOF) phenotypes in multiple tissues and thus serves as a useful platform for genetic screening. Based on the success of this CRISRPa approach, we are generating a genome-wide collection of flies expressing single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) for CRISPRa. We also present a collection of more than 30 Gal4 > UAS:dCas9-VPR lines to aid in using these sgRNA lines for GOF studies in vivo.
The recent development of the CRISPR-Cas9 system for genome engineering has revolutionized our ability to modify the endogenous DNA sequence of many organisms, including Drosophila This system allows alteration of DNA sequences in situ with single base-pair precision and is now being used for a wide variety of applications. To use the CRISPR system effectively, various design parameters must be considered, including single guide RNA target site selection and identification of successful editing events. Here, we review recent advances in CRISPR methodology in Drosophila and introduce protocols for some of the more difficult aspects of CRISPR implementation: designing and generating CRISPR reagents and detecting indel mutations by high-resolution melt analysis.
Several programmable transcription factors exist based on the versatile Cas9 protein, yet their relative potency and effectiveness across various cell types and species remain unexplored. Here, we compare Cas9 activator systems and examine their ability to induce robust gene expression in several human, mouse, and fly cell lines. We also explore the potential for improved activation through the combination of the most potent activator systems, and we assess the role of cooperativity in maximizing gene expression.
The RNA-guided nuclease Cas9 can be reengineered as a programmable transcription factor. However, modest levels of gene activation have limited potential applications. We describe an improved transcriptional regulator obtained through the rational design of a tripartite activator, VP64-p65-Rta (VPR), fused to nuclease-null Cas9. We demonstrate its utility in activating endogenous coding and noncoding genes, targeting several genes simultaneously and stimulating neuronal differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
A number of approaches for Cas9-mediated transcriptional activation have recently been developed, allowing target genes to be overexpressed from their endogenous genomic loci. However, these approaches have thus far been limited to cell culture, and this technique has not been demonstrated in vivo in any animal. The technique involving the fewest separate components, and therefore the most amenable to in vivo applications, is the dCas9-VPR system, where a nuclease-dead Cas9 is fused to a highly active chimeric activator domain. In this study, we characterize the dCas9-VPR system in Drosophila cells and in vivo. We show that this system can be used in cell culture to upregulate a range of target genes, singly and in multiplex, and that a single guide RNA upstream of the transcription start site can activate high levels of target transcription. We observe marked heterogeneity in guide RNA efficacy for any given gene, and we confirm that transcription is inhibited by guide RNAs binding downstream of the transcription start site. To demonstrate one application of this technique in cells, we used dCas9-VPR to identify target genes for Twist and Snail, two highly conserved transcription factors that cooperate during Drosophila mesoderm development. In addition, we simultaneously activated both Twist and Snail to identify synergistic responses to this physiologically relevant combination. Finally, we show that dCas9-VPR can activate target genes and cause dominant phenotypes in vivo, providing the first demonstration of dCas9 activation in a multicellular animal. Transcriptional activation using dCas9-VPR thus offers a simple and broadly applicable technique for a variety of overexpression studies.
Our ability to modify the Drosophila genome has recently been revolutionized by the development of the CRISPR system. The simplicity and high efficiency of this system allows its widespread use for many different applications, greatly increasing the range of genome modification experiments that can be performed. Here, we first discuss some general design principles for genome engineering experiments in Drosophila and then present detailed protocols for the production of CRISPR reagents and screening strategies to detect successful genome modification events in both tissue culture cells and animals.
The ability to engineer genomes in a specific, systematic, and cost-effective way is critical for functional genomic studies. Recent advances using the CRISPR-associated single-guide RNA system (Cas9/sgRNA) illustrate the potential of this simple system for genome engineering in a number of organisms. Here we report an effective and inexpensive method for genome DNA editing in Drosophila melanogaster whereby plasmid DNAs encoding short sgRNAs under the control of the U6b promoter are injected into transgenic flies in which Cas9 is specifically expressed in the germ line via the nanos promoter. We evaluate the off-targets associated with the method and establish a Web-based resource, along with a searchable, genome-wide database of predicted sgRNAs appropriate for genome engineering in flies. Finally, we discuss the advantages of our method in comparison with other recently published approaches.