by Emily D. Crawford, Jenai Quan, Jeremy A. Horst, Daniel Ebert, Wesley Wu, Joseph L. DeRisi
Genetic manipulation of the deadly malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum remains challenging, but the rise of CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing tools is increasing the feasibility of altering this parasite’s genome in order to study its biology. Of particular interest is the investigation of drug targets and drug resistance mechanisms, which have major implications for fighting malaria. We present a new method for introducing drug resistance mutations in P. falciparum without the use of plasmids or the need for cloning homologous recombination templates. We demonstrate this method by introducing edits into the sodium efflux channel PfATP4 by transfection of a purified CRISPR/Cas9-guide RNA ribonucleoprotein complex and a 200-nucleotide single-stranded oligodeoxynucleotide (ssODN) repair template. Analysis of whole genome sequencing data with the variant-finding program MinorityReport confirmed that only the intended edits were made, and growth inhibition assays confirmed that these mutations confer resistance to the antimalarial SJ733. The method described here is ideally suited for the introduction of mutations that confer a fitness advantage under selection conditions, and the novel finding that an ssODN can function as a repair template in P. falciparum could greatly simplify future editing attempts regardless of the nuclease used or the delivery method.
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