CRISPR enzymes are like super scissors: they cut, delete, and add genes to a specific kind of cell, one at a time. But now, UC Berkeley faculty and Biosciences Area researchers have figured out how to add or modify genes within a microbial community of many different species, coining the phrase, “community editing.”
In a study appearing in Nature Plants, researchers from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and Berkeley Lab report the discovery and characterization of a previously undescribed lineage of form I rubisco – one that the researchers suspect diverged from form I rubisco prior to the evolution of cyanobacteria. The novel lineage, called form I’ rubisco, gives researchers new insights into the structural evolution of form I rubisco, potentially providing clues as to how this enzyme changed the planet.
The work was led by Patrick Shih, a UC Davis assistant professor and the director of Plant Biosystems Design at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), and Doug Banda, a postdoctoral scholar in his lab.
Jill Banfield, an Earth and Environmental Sciences Area faculty scientist with a secondary appointment in the Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology Division, co-led a team to discover 351 different huge bacteria-eating phages. One of these is the largest bacteriophage known to date–with a genome that at 735,000 pairs long–is nearly 15 times longer than the average phage.
UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab scientists have expanded the CRISPR gene-editing toolkit with the addition of a new, compact CRISPR-associated (Cas) protein—the RNA-guided “scissors” that snip DNA—and a modification of the Cas9 protein to give it an “on” switch for better control.
While sequencing gut bacteria from people in Bangladesh, Berkeley Lab’s Jillian Banfield discovered phages, viruses that infect and reproduce inside bacteria, twice as big as any previously found in humans. She and her colleagues found the snippets of megaphage DNA in a CRISPR segment of one type of bacteria, Prevotella, that is uncommon in people eating a high-fat, low-fiber Westernized diet. Banfield and her team named the clade of megaphages “Lak phage” after the Laksam Upazila area of Bangladesh where they were found.