Background: The cosmopolitan microcrustacean Daphnia pulex provides a model system for both human health research and monitoring ecosystem integrity. It is the first crustacean to have its complete genome sequenced, an unprecedented ca. 36% of which has no known homologs with any other species. Moreover, D. pulex is ideally suited for experimental manipulation because of its short reproductive cycle, large numbers of offspring, synchronization of oocyte maturation, and other life history characteristics. However, existing gene manipulation techniques are insufficient to accurately define gene functions. Although our previous investigations developed an RNA interference (RNAi) system in D. pulex, the possible time period of functional analysis was limited because the effectiveness of RNAi is transient. Thus, in this study, we developed a genome editing system for D. pulex by first microinjecting transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN) mRNAs into early embryos and then evaluating TALEN activity and mutation phenotypes. Results: We assembled a TALEN construct specific to the Distal-less gene (Dll), which is a homeobox transcription factor essential for distal limb development in invertebrates and vertebrates, and evaluated its activity in vitro by single-strand annealing assay. Then, we injected TALEN mRNAs into eggs within 1 hour post-ovulation. Injected embryos presented with defects in the second antenna and altered appendage development, and indel mutations were detected in Dll loci, indicating that this technique successfully knocked out the target gene. Conclusions: We succeeded, for the first time in D. pulex, in targeted mutagenesis by use of Platinum TALENs. This genome editing technique makes it possible to conduct reverse genetic analysis in D. pulex, making this species an even more appropriate model organism for environmental, evolutionary, and developmental genomics.
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