Species- and site-specific genome editing in complex bacterial communities

Nat Microbiol. 2022 Jan;7(1):34-47. doi: 10.1038/s41564-021-01014-7. Epub 2021 Dec 6.


Understanding microbial gene functions relies on the application of experimental genetics in cultured microorganisms. However, the vast majority of bacteria and archaea remain uncultured, precluding the application of traditional genetic methods to these organisms and their interactions. Here, we characterize and validate a generalizable strategy for editing the genomes of specific organisms in microbial communities. We apply environmental transformation sequencing (ET-seq), in which nontargeted transposon insertions are mapped and quantified following delivery to a microbial community, to identify genetically tractable constituents. Next, DNA-editing all-in-one RNA-guided CRISPR-Cas transposase (DART) systems for targeted DNA insertion into organisms identified as tractable by ET-seq are used to enable organism- and locus-specific genetic manipulation in a community context. Using a combination of ET-seq and DART in soil and infant gut microbiota, we conduct species- and site-specific edits in several bacteria, measure gene fitness in a nonmodel bacterium and enrich targeted species. These tools enable editing of microbial communities for understanding and control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics
  • Bacteria / classification
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics*
  • Gene Editing / methods*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Microbial Consortia / genetics*
  • RNA, Guide
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • RNA, Guide