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Title: A CRISPR-Cas9–integrase complex generates precise DNA fragments for genome integration
CRISPR-Cas9 is an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease involved in bacterial adaptive immunity and widely repurposed for genome editing in human cells, animals and plants. In bacteria, RNA molecules that guide Cas9′s activity derive from foreign DNA fragments that are captured and integrated into the host CRISPR genomic locus by the Cas1-Cas2 CRISPR integrase. How cells generate the specific lengths of DNA required for integrase capture is a central unanswered question of type II-A CRISPR-based adaptive immunity. Here, we show that an integrase supercomplex comprising guide RNA and the proteins Cas1, Cas2, Csn2 and Cas9 generates precisely trimmed 30-base pair DNA molecules required for genome integration. The HNH active site of Cas9 catalyzes exonucleolytic DNA trimming by a mechanism that is independent of the guide RNA sequence. These results show that Cas9 possesses a distinct catalytic capacity for generating immunological memory in prokaryotes.
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Nucleic acids research
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    CRISPR-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity in bacteria and archaea, beginning with integration of foreign sequences into the host CRISPR genomic locus and followed by transcription and maturation of CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs). In some CRISPR systems, a reverse transcriptase (RT) fusion to the Cas1 integrase and Cas6 maturase creates a single protein that enables concerted sequence integration and crRNA production. To elucidate how the RT-integrase organizes distinct enzymatic activities, we present the cryo-EM structure of a Cas6-RT-Cas1—Cas2 CRISPR integrase complex. The structure reveals a heterohexamer in which the RT directly contacts the integrase and maturase domains, suggesting functional coordination between all three active sites. Together with biochemical experiments, our data support a model of sequential enzymatic activities that enable CRISPR sequence acquisition from RNA and DNA substrates. These findings highlight an expanded capacity of some CRISPR systems to acquire diverse sequences that direct CRISPR-mediated interference.

  2. 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.

  3. We report the development of post-transcriptional chemical methods that enable control over CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing activity both in in vitro assays and in living cells. We show that an azide-substituted acyl imidazole reagent (NAI-N 3 ) efficiently acylates CRISPR single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) in 20 minutes in buffer. Poly-acylated (“cloaked”) sgRNA was completely inactive in DNA cleavage with Cas9 in vitro , and activity was quantitatively restored after phosphine treatment. Delivery of cloaked sgRNA and Cas9 mRNA into HeLa cells was enabled by the use of charge-altering releasable transporters (CARTs), which outperformed commercial transfection reagents in transfecting sgRNA co-complexed with Cas9 encoding functional mRNA. Genomic DNA cleavage in the cells by CRISPR–Cas9 was efficiently restored after treatment with phosphine to remove the blocking acyl groups. Our results highlight the utility of reversible RNA acylation as a novel method for temporal control of genome-editing function.
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  5. Abstract

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