Using a CRISPR-based approach, researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory have knocked out a key cephalopod pigmentation gene, showing that gene editing is feasible in squid.
Squid, the researchers note, have been a key model organism to understand, for instance, how signals are sent along nerves, but they have lost prominence as a model organism to ones that are easier to manipulate genetically. But as they report in Current Biology, MBL's Joshua Rosenthal and his colleagues used CRISPR-Cas9 to knock out a gene needed to synthesize pigments in the Doryteuthis pealeii squid. When they targeted Tryptophan 2,3 Dioxygenas, which catalyzes the first step of the synthesis of ommochromes, in squid embryos, it led to a near-lack of pigmentation in D. pealeii.
"This is a critical first step toward the ability to knock out — and knock in — genes in cephalopods to address a host of biological questions," Rosenthal says in a statement.
This work could pave the way to using squid to study their camouflage ability, how their brains encode complex behaviors, and how the development of their body plan is regulated, the researchers add in their paper.