CRISPR-Cas12a is an RNA-guided, programmable genome editing enzyme found within bacterial adaptive immune pathways. Unlike CRISPR-Cas9, Cas12a uses only a single catalytic site to both cleave target double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) (cis-activity) and indiscriminately degrade single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) (trans-activity). To investigate how the relative potency of cis- versus trans-DNase activity affects Cas12a-mediated genome editing, we first used structure-guided engineering to generate variants of Lachnospiraceae bacterium Cas12a that selectively disrupt trans-activity. The resulting engineered mutant with the biggest differential between cis- and trans-DNase activity in vitro showed minimal genome editing activity in human cells, motivating a second set of experiments using directed evolution to generate additional mutants with robust genome editing activity. Notably, these engineered and evolved mutants had enhanced ability to induce homology-directed repair (HDR) editing by 2–18-fold compared to wild-type Cas12a when using HDR donors containing mismatches with crRNA at the PAM-distal region. Finally, a site-specific reversion mutation produced improved Cas12a (iCas12a) variants with superior genome editing efficiency at genomic sites that are difficult to edit using wild-type Cas12a. This strategy establishes a pipeline for creating improved genome editing tools by combining structural insights with randomization and selection. The available structures of other CRISPR-Cas enzymes will enable this strategymore »
CRISPR-Cas systems are found widely in prokaryotes, where they provide adaptive immunity against virus infection and plasmid transformation. We describe a minimal functional CRISPR-Cas system, comprising a single ~70-kilodalton protein, CasΦ, and a CRISPR array, encoded exclusively in the genomes of huge bacteriophages. CasΦ uses a single active site for both CRISPR RNA (crRNA) processing and crRNA-guided DNA cutting to target foreign nucleic acids. This hypercompact system is active in vitro and in human and plant cells with expanded target recognition capabilities relative to other CRISPR-Cas proteins. Useful for genome editing and DNA detection but with a molecular weight half that of Cas9 and Cas12a genome-editing enzymes, CasΦ offers advantages for cellular delivery that expand the genome editing toolbox.
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- p. 333-337
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
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- National Science Foundation
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