CRISPR/Cas9-mediated generation of auxotrophic Edwardsiella piscicida mutants and immunization in olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)
Edwardsiella piscicida has been a cause of mass mortality in cultured fish. In this study, to produce auxotrophic E. piscicida mutants, a CRISPR/Cas9 system was used instead of the traditional sacB-based allelic exchange method. Under the optimal CRISPR engineering condition, we could efficiently produce either alr or asd gene knockout E. piscicida auxotrophic mutants, and this genome editing process was much simpler and faster than the allelic exchange method. The simultaneous knockout of double auxotrophic genes (alr and asd) and the insertion of a foreign gene expression cassette in E. piscicida chromosome were also successfully performed using the established CRISPR/Cas9 system. Furthermore, to enhance the possibility to get permission as a commercial vaccine, we produced an auxotrophic E. piscicida mutant having only one nucleotide-deleted alr gene (E. piscicida △alr-1). Olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus) fingerlings immunized with 1 × 106 and 1 × 105 CFU/fish of E. piscicida △alr-1 showed the superior ability in the induction of serum agglutination activity and in the protection against E. piscicida compared to killed E. piscicida. However, olive flounder immunized with 1 × 107 CFU/fish of E. piscicida △alr-1 showed high mortality far before the challenge, and the isolated E. piscicida from moribund and dead fish had the wild type alr gene, suggesting the reversion of one base-deleted alr gene to original form by a second mutation in olive flounder. Therefore, investigation on the minimum number of edited nucleotide for stable maintenance of E. piscicida mutants should be further conducted.