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Genome engineering of Nannochloropsis with large deletions for constructing microalgal minigenomes

By Qintao Wang, Yanhai Gong, Yuehui He, Yi Xin, Nana Lv, Xuefeng Du, Yun Li, Byeong-ryool Jeong, Jian Xu

Posted 09 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.08.332478

Industrial microalgae are promising photosynthetic cell factories, yet tools for targeted genome engineering are limited. Here for the model industrial oleaginous microalga Nannochloropsis oceanica we established a method to precisely and serially delete large genome fragments of ~100 kb from its 30.01-Mb nuclear genome. We started by identifying the "non-essential" chromosomal regions (i.e., low-expression region or LER) based on minimal gene expression under N-replete and N-depleted conditions. The largest such LER (LER1) is ~98 kb in size, located near the telomere of the 502.09 kb-long Chromosome 30 (Chr 30). We deleted 81 kb and further distal and proximal deletions of up to 110 kb (21.9% of Chr 30) in LER1 by dual targeting the boundaries with the episome-based CRISPR/Cas9 system. The telomere-deletion mutants showed normal telomeres consisting of CCCTAA repeats, revealing telomere regeneration capability after losing distal part of Chr 30. Interestingly, the deletions caused no significant alteration in growth, lipid production or photosynthesis (transcript-abundance change for < 3% genes under N depletion). We also performed double-deletion of both LER1 and LER2 (from Chr 9) that totals ~214 kb, and phenotypes are essentially normal. Therefore, loss of the large yet "non-essential" regions does not necessarily sacrifice important traits. Such serial targeted deletions of large genomic regions have not been reported in plants or microalgae, and will accelerate crafting minimal genomes as chassis for photosynthetic production. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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