Engineered dual selection for directed evolution of SpCas9 PAM specificity
The widely used Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) nuclease derives its DNA targeting specificity from protein-DNA contacts with protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) sequences, in addition to base-pairing interactions between its guide RNA and target DNA. Previous reports have established that the PAM specificity of SpCas9 can be altered via positive selection procedures for directed evolution or other protein engineering strategies. Here we exploit in vivo directed evolution systems that incorporate simultaneous positive and negative selection to evolve SpCas9 variants with commensurate or improved activity on NAG PAMs relative to wild type and reduced activity on NGG PAMs, particularly YGG PAMs. We also show that the PAM preferences of available evolutionary intermediates effectively determine whether similar counterselection PAMs elicit different selection stringencies, and demonstrate that negative selection can be specifically increased in a yeast selection system through the fusion of compensatory zinc fingers to SpCas9.
The geometric influence on the Cys2His2 zinc finger domain and functional plasticity
The Cys2His2 zinc finger is the most common DNA-binding domain expanding in metazoans since the fungi human split. A proposed catalyst for this expansion is an arms race to silence transposable elements yet it remains poorly understood how this domain is able to evolve the required specificities. Likewise, models of its DNA binding specificity remain error prone due to a lack of understanding of how adjacent fingers influence each other's binding specificity. Here, we use a synthetic approach to exhaustively investigate binding geometry, one of the dominant influences on adjacent finger function. By screening over 28 billion protein-DNA interactions in various geometric contexts we find the plasticity of the most common natural geometry enables more functional amino acid combinations across all targets. Further, residues that define this geometry are enriched in genomes where zinc fingers are prevalent and specificity transitions would be limited in alternative geometries. Finally, these results demonstrate an exhaustive synthetic screen can produce an accurate model of domain function while providing mechanistic insight that may have assisted in the domains expansion.
A yeast optogenetic toolkit (yOTK) for gene expression control in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Optogenetic tools for controlling gene expression are ideal for tuning synthetic biological networks due to the exquisite spatiotemporal control available with light. Here we develop an optogenetic system for gene expression control integrated with an existing yeast toolkit allowing for rapid, modular assembly of light-controlled circuits in the important chassis organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We reconstitute activity of a split synthetic zinc-finger transcription factor (TF) using light-induced dimerization mediated by the proteins CRY2 and CIB1. We optimize function of this split TF and demonstrate the utility of the toolkit workflow by assembling cassettes expressing the TF activation domain and DNA-binding domain at different levels. Utilizing this TF and a synthetic promoter we demonstrate that light-intensity and duty-cycle can be used to modulate gene expression over the range currently available from natural yeast promoters. This work allows for rapid generation and prototyping of optogenetic circuits to control gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
A Multireporter Bacterial 2-Hybrid Assay for the High-Throughput and Dynamic Assay of PDZ Domain-Peptide Interactions
The accurate determination of protein-protein interactions has been an important focus of molecular biology toward which much progress has been made due to the continuous development of existing and new technologies. However, current methodsÂ can have limitations, including scale and restriction to high affinity interactions, limiting our understanding of a large subset of these interactions. Here, we describe a modified bacterial-hybrid assay that employs combined selectable and scalable reporters that enable the sensitive screening of large peptide libraries followed by the sorting of positive interactions by the level of reporter output. We have applied this tool to characterize a set of human and E.Â coli PDZ domains. Our results are consistent with prior characterization of these proteins, and the improved sensitivity increases our ability to predict known and novel in vivo binding partners. This approach allows for the recovery of a wide range of affinities with a high throughput method that does not sacrifice the scale of the screen.
Lineage context switches the function of a C. elegans Pax6 homolog in determining a neuronal fate
The sensory nervous system of C. elegans comprises cells with varied molecular and functional characteristics and is, therefore, a powerful model for understanding mechanisms that generate neuronal diversity. We report here that VAB-3, a C. elegans homolog of the homeodomain-containing protein Pax6, has opposing functions in regulating expression of a specific chemosensory fate. A homeodomain-only short isoform of VAB-3 is expressed in BAG chemosensory neurons, where it promotes gene expression and cell function. In other cells, a long isoform of VAB-3 comprised of a Paired homology domain and a homeodomain represses expression of ETS-5, a transcription factor required for expression of BAG fate. Repression of ets-5 requires the Eyes Absent homolog EYA-1 and the Six-class homeodomain protein CEH-32. We determined sequences that mediate high-affinity binding of ETS-5, VAB-3, and CEH-32. The ets-5 locus is enriched for ETS-5-binding sites but lacks sequences that bind VAB-3 and CEH-32, suggesting that these factors do not directly repress ets-5 expression. We propose that a promoter-selection system together with lineage-specific expression of accessory factors allows VAB-3/Pax6 to either promote or repress expression of specific cell fates in a context-dependent manner.
Linking the environment, DAF-7/TGFbeta signaling and LAG-2/DSL ligand expression in the germline stem cell niche
The developmental accumulation of proliferative germ cells in the C. elegans hermaphrodite is sensitive to the organismal environment. Previously, we found that the TGFbeta signaling pathway links the environment and proliferative germ cell accumulation. Neuronal DAF-7/TGFbeta causes a DAF-1/TGFbetaR signaling cascade in the gonadal distal tip cell (DTC), the germline stem cell niche, where it negatively regulates a DAF-3 SMAD and DAF-5 Sno-Ski. LAG-2, a founding DSL ligand family member, is produced in the DTC and activates the GLP-1/Notch receptor on adjacent germ cells to maintain germline stem cell fate. Here, we show that DAF-7/TGFbeta signaling promotes expression of lag-2 in the DTC in a daf-3-dependent manner. Using ChIP and one-hybrid assays, we find evidence for direct interaction between DAF-3 and the lag-2 promoter. We further identify a 25 bp DAF-3 binding element required for the DTC lag-2 reporter response to the environment and to DAF-7/TGFbeta signaling. Our results implicate DAF-3 repressor complex activity as a key molecular mechanism whereby the environment influences DSL ligand expression in the niche to modulate developmental expansion of the germline stem cell pool.
The State of Systems Genetics in 2017
Cell Systems invited 16 experts to share their views on the field of systems genetics. In questions repeated in the headings, we asked them to define systems genetics, highlight its relevance to researchers outside the field, discuss what makes a strong systems genetics paper, and paint a picture of where the field is heading in the coming years. Their responses, ordered by the journal but otherwise unedited, make it clear that deciphering genotype to phenotype relationships is a central challenge of systems genetics and will require understanding how networks and higher-order properties of biological systems underlie complex traits. In addition, our experts illuminate the applications and relevance of systems genetics to human disease, the gut microbiome, development of tools that connect the global research community, sustainability, drug discovery, patient-specific disease and network models, and personalized treatments. Finally, a table of suggested reading provides a sample of influential work in the field.
Multi-reporter selection for the design of active and more specific zinc-finger nucleases for genome editing
Engineered nucleases have transformed biological research and offer great therapeutic potential by enabling the straightforward modification of desired genomic sequences. While many nuclease platforms have proven functional, all can produce unanticipated off-target lesions and have difficulty discriminating between homologous sequences, limiting their therapeutic application. Here we describe a multi-reporter selection system that allows the screening of large protein libraries to uncover variants able to discriminate between sequences with substantial homology. We have used this system to identify zinc-finger nucleases that exhibit high cleavage activity (up to 60% indels) at their targets within the CCR5 and HBB genes and strong discrimination against homologous sequences within CCR2 and HBD. An unbiased screen for off-target lesions using a novel set of CCR5-targeting nucleases confirms negligible CCR2 activity and demonstrates minimal off-target activity genome wide. This system offers a straightforward approach to generate nucleases that discriminate between similar targets and provide exceptional genome-wide specificity.
A systematic survey of the Cys2His2 zinc finger DNA-binding landscape
Cys2His2 zinc fingers (C2H2-ZFs) comprise the largest class of metazoan DNA-binding domains. Despite this domain's well-defined DNA-recognition interface, and its successful use in the design of chimeric proteins capable of targeting genomic regions of interest, much remains unknown about its DNA-binding landscape. To help bridge this gap in fundamental knowledge and to provide a resource for design-oriented applications, we screened large synthetic protein libraries to select binding C2H2-ZF domains for each possible three base pair target. The resulting data consist of >160 000 unique domain-DNA interactions and comprise the most comprehensive investigation of C2H2-ZF DNA-binding interactions to date. An integrated analysis of these independent screens yielded DNA-binding profiles for tens of thousands of domains and led to the successful design and prediction of C2H2-ZF DNA-binding specificities. Computational analyses uncovered important aspects of C2H2-ZF domain-DNA interactions, including the roles of within-finger context and domain position on base recognition. We observed the existence of numerous distinct binding strategies for each possible three base pair target and an apparent balance between affinity and specificity of binding. In sum, our comprehensive data help elucidate the complex binding landscape of C2H2-ZF domains and provide a foundation for efforts to determine, predict and engineer their DNA-binding specificities.
Understanding DNA-binding specificity by bacteria hybrid selection
Understanding how sequence-specific protein-DNA interactions direct cellular function is of great interest to the research community. High-throughput methods have been developed to determine DNA-binding specificities; one such technique, the bacterial one-hybrid (B1H) system, confers advantages including ease of use, sensitivity and throughput. In this review, we describe the evolution of the B1H system as a tool capable of screening large DNA libraries to investigate protein-DNA interactions of interest. We discuss how DNA-binding specificities produced by the B1H system have been used to predict regulatory targets. Additionally, we examine how this approach has been applied to characterize two common DNA-binding domain families-homeodomains and Cys2His2 zinc fingers-both in organism-wide studies and with synthetic approaches. In the case of the former, the B1H system has produced large catalogs of protein specificity and nuanced information about previously recovered DNA targets, thereby improving our understanding of these proteins' functions in vivo and increasing our capacity to predict similar interactions in other species. In the latter, synthetic screens of the same DNA-binding domains have further refined our models of specificity, through analyzing comprehensive libraries to uncover all proteins able to bind a complete set of targets, and, for instance, exploring how context-in the form of domain position within the parent protein-may affect specificity. Finally, we recognize the limitations of the B1H system and discuss its potential for use in the production of designer proteins and in studies of protein-protein interactions.