CRISPR/Cas9 has been successfully adapted for gene editing in malaria parasites including Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium yoelii. However, the reported methods were limited to editing one gene at a time. In practice, it is often desired to modify multiple genetic loci in a parasite genome. Here we describe a CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome editing method that allows successive modification of more than one gene in the genome of P. yoelii using an improved single-vector system (pYCm) we developed previously. Drug resistant genes encoding human dihydrofolate reductase (hDHFR) and a yeast bifunctional protein (yFCU), with cytosine deaminase (CD) and uridyl phosphoribosyl transferase (UPRT) activities in the plasmid, allowed sequential positive (pyrimethamine, Pyr) and negative (5-fluorocytosine, 5FC) selections and generation of transgenic parasites free of the episomal plasmid after genetic modification. Using this system, we were able to efficiently tag a gene of interest (Pyp28) and subsequently disrupted two genes (Pyctrp and Pycdpk3) that are individually critical for ookinete motility. Disruption of the genes either eliminated (Pyctrp) or greatly reduced (Pycdpk3) ookinete forward motility in matrigel in vitro and completely blocked oocyst development in mosquito midgut. The method will greatly facilitate studies of parasite gene function, development, and disease pathogenesis.
Keywords: Cas9; Genetic modifications; Pycdpk3; Pyctrp; Rodent malaria; yFCU.
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