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mSphere. 2019 Mar 20;4(2). pii: e00007-19. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00007-19.

CRISPR Interference for Rapid Knockdown of Essential Cell Cycle Genes in Lactobacillus plantarum.

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Faculty of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway.
Faculty of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway


Studies of essential genes in bacteria are often hampered by the lack of accessible genetic tools. This is also the case for Lactobacillus plantarum, a key species in food and health applications. Here, we develop a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat interference (CRISPRi) system for knockdown of gene expression in L. plantarum The two-plasmid CRISPRi system, in which a nuclease-inactivated Cas9 (dCas9) and a gene-specific single guide RNA (sgRNA) are expressed on separate plasmids, allows efficient knockdown of expression of any gene of interest. We utilized the CRISPRi system to gain initial insights into the functions of key cell cycle genes in L. plantarum As a proof of concept, we investigated the phenotypes resulting from knockdowns of the cell wall hydrolase-encoding acm2 gene and of the DNA replication initiator gene dnaA and of ezrA, which encodes an early cell division protein. Furthermore, we studied the phenotypes of three cell division genes which have recently been functionally characterized in ovococcal bacteria but whose functions have not yet been investigated in rod-shaped bacteria. We show that the transmembrane CozE proteins do not seem to play any major role in cell division in L. plantarum On the other hand, RNA-binding proteins KhpA and EloR are critical for proper cell elongation in this bacterium.IMPORTANCE L. plantarum is an important bacterium for applications in food and health. Deep insights into the biology and physiology of this species are therefore necessary for further strain optimization and exploitation; however, the functions of essential genes in the bacterium are mainly unknown due to the lack of accessible genetic tools. The CRISPRi system developed here is ideal to quickly screen for phenotypes of both essential and nonessential genes. Our initial insights into the function of some key cell cycle genes represent the first step toward understanding the cell cycle in this bacterium.


CRISPRi; Lactobacillus plantarum ; acm2 ; bacterial cell cycle; cozE ; dnaA ; eloR ; ezrA ; khpA ; knockdown

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