Background: CRISPR/Cas systems confer immunity against invading nucleic acids and phages in bacteria and archaea. CRISPR/Cas13a (known previously as C2c2) is a class 2 type VI-A ribonuclease capable of targeting and cleaving single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecules of the phage genome. Here, we employ CRISPR/Cas13a to engineer interference with an RNA virus, Turnip Mosaic Virus (TuMV), in plants.
Results: CRISPR/Cas13a produces interference against green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing TuMV in transient assays and stable overexpression lines of Nicotiana benthamiana. CRISPR RNA (crRNAs) targeting the HC-Pro and GFP sequences exhibit better interference than those targeting other regions such as coat protein (CP) sequence. Cas13a can also process pre-crRNAs into functional crRNAs.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that CRISPR/Cas13a can be used for engineering interference against RNA viruses, providing a potential novel mechanism for RNA-guided immunity against RNA viruses and for other RNA manipulations in plants.
Keywords: CRISPR/Cas systems; CRISPR/Cas13a; Molecular immunity; RNA interference; RNA knockdown; Transcriptome regulation; Virus interference.