With the emergence of antifungal resistant strains, the need for new antifungal drugs is critical in combating this fungal pathogen. Investigating essential genes in is a vital step in characterizing putative antifungal drug targets. As some of these essential genes are conserved between fungal organisms, developed therapies targeting these genes have the potential to be broad range antifungals. In order to study these essential genes, classical genetic knockout or CRISPR-based approaches cannot be used as disrupting essential genes leads to lethality in the organism. Fortunately, a variation of the CRISPR system (CRISPR interference or CRISPRi) exists that enables precise transcriptional repression of the gene of interest without introducing genetic mutations. CRISPRi utilizes an endonuclease dead Cas9 protein that can be targeted to a precise location but lacks the ability to create a double-stranded break. The binding of the dCas9 protein to DNA prevents the binding of RNA polymerase to the promoter through steric hindrance thereby reducing expression. We recently published the novel use of this technology in and are currently working on expanding this technology to large scale repression of essential genes. Through the construction of an essential gene CRISPRi-sgRNA library, we can begin to study the function of essential genes under different conditions and identify genes that are involved in critical processes such as drug tolerance in antifungal resistant background strains. These genes can ultimately be characterized as putative targets for novel antifungal drug development, or targeted as a means to sensitize drug-resistant strains to antifungal treatment.

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