Developing transfection protocols for marine protists is an emerging field that will allow the functional characterization of protist genes and their roles in organism responses to the environment. We developed a CRISPR/Cas9 editing protocol for Bodo saltans, a free-living kinetoplastid with tolerance to both marine and freshwater conditions and a close non-parasitic relative of trypanosomatids. Our results show that SaCas9/single-guide RNA (sgRNA) ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex-mediated disruption of the paraflagellar rod 2 gene (BsPFR2) was achieved using electroporation-mediated transfection. The use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing can increase the efficiency of targeted homologous recombination when a repair DNA template is provided. Our sequence analysis suggests two mechanisms for repairing double-strand breaks in B. saltans are active; homologous-directed repair (HDR) utilizing an exogenous DNA template that carries an antibiotic resistance gene and likley non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). However, HDR was only achieved when a single (vs. multiple) SaCas9 RNP complex was provided. Furthermore, the biallelic knockout of BsPFR2 was detrimental for the cell, highlighting its essential role for cell survival because it facilitates the movement of food particles into the cytostome. Our Cas9/sgRNA RNP complex protocol provides a new tool for assessing gene functions in B. saltans and perhaps similar protists with polycistronic transcription.
© 2022 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Environmental Microbiology published by Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.