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Dynamic and single cell characterization of a CRISPR-interference toolset in Pseudomonas putida KT2440 for β-ketoadipate pro...

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Metabolic Engineering Communications
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Pseudomonas putida KT2440 is a well-studied bacterium for the conversion of lignin-derived aromatic compounds to bioproducts. The development of advanced genetic tools in P. putida has reduced the turnaround time for hypothesis testing and enabled the construction of strains capable of producing various products of interest. Here, we evaluate an inducible CRISPR-interference (CRISPRi) toolset on fluorescent, essential, and metabolic targets. Nuclease-deficient Cas9 (dCas9) expressed with the arabinose (8K)-inducible promoter was shown to be tightly regulated across various media conditions and when targeting essential genes. In addition to bulk growth data, single cell time lapse microscopy was conducted, which revealed intrinsic heterogeneity in knockdown rate within an isoclonal population. The dynamics of knockdown were studied across genomic targets in exponentially-growing cells, revealing a universal 1.75 ± 0.38 hour quiescent phase after induction where 1.5 ± 0.35 doublings occur before a phenotypic response is observed. To demonstrate application of this CRISPRi toolset, β-ketoadipate, a monomer for performance-advantaged nylon, was produced at a 4.39 ± 0.5 g/L and yield of 0.76 ± 0.10 mol/mol from p-coumarate, a hydroxycinnamic acid that can be derived from grasses. These cultivation metrics were achieved by using the higher strength IPTG (1K)-inducible promoter to knockdown the pcaIJ operon in the βKA pathway during early exponential phase. This allowed the majority of the carbon to be shunted into the desired product while eliminating the need for a supplemental carbon and energy source to support growth and maintenance.