A CRISPR-dCas9 System for Assaying and Selecting for RNase III Activity In Vivo in Escherichia coli

CRISPR J. 2023 Feb;6(1):43-51. doi: 10.1089/crispr.2022.0041. Epub 2022 Dec 9.


Ribonuclease III (RNase III) and RNase III-like ribonucleases have a wide range of important functions and are found in all organisms, yet a simple and high-throughput in vivo method for measuring RNase III activity does not exist. Typical methods for measuring RNase III activity rely on in vitro RNA analysis or in vivo methods that are not suitable for high-throughput analysis. In this study, we describe our development of a deactivated Cas9 (dCas9)-based in vivo assay for RNase III activity that utilizes RNase III's cleavage of the 5'-untranslated region (UTR) of its own messenger RNA. The key molecule in the system is a hybrid guide RNA (gRNA) between the 5'-UTR of RNase III and gGFP, a gRNA that works with dCas9 to repress GFP expression. This fusion must be cleaved by RNase III for full GFP repression. Our system uses GFP fluorescence to report on Escherichia coli RNase III activity in culture and on an individual cell basis, making it effective for selecting individual cells through fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Homology between enzymes within the RNase III family suggests this assay might be adapted to measure the activity of other enzymes in the RNase III family such as human Dicer or Drosha.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Escherichia coli* / genetics
  • Gene Editing
  • Humans
  • RNA
  • Ribonuclease III* / genetics
  • Ribonuclease III* / metabolism


  • Ribonuclease III
  • RNA