Genome-wide functional screens enable the prediction of high activity CRISPR-Cas9 and -Cas12a guides in Yarrowia lipolytica


Genome-wide functional genetic screens have been successful in discovering genotype-phenotype relationships and in engineering new phenotypes. While broadly applied in mammalian cell lines and in E. coli, use in non-conventional microorganisms has been limited, in part, due to the inability to accurately design high activity CRISPR guides in such species. Here, we develop an experimental-computational approach to sgRNA design that is specific to an organism of choice, in this case the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica. A negative selection screen in the absence of non-homologous end-joining, the dominant DNA repair mechanism, was used to generate single guide RNA (sgRNA) activity profiles for both SpCas9 and LbCas12a. This genome-wide data served as input to a deep learning algorithm, DeepGuide, that is able to accurately predict guide activity. DeepGuide uses unsupervised learning to obtain a compressed representation of the genome, followed by supervised learning to map sgRNA sequence, genomic context, and epigenetic features with guide activity. Experimental validation confirmed DeepGuide’s ability to accurately predict high activity guides. DeepGuide provides an organism specific predictor of CRISPR guide activity that could be broadly applied to fungal species, prokaryotes, and other non-conventional organisms.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

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