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  1. Abstract Background

    Cas12a (formerly known as Cpf1), the class II type V CRISPR nuclease, has been widely used for genome editing in mammalian cells and plants due to its distinct characteristics from Cas9. Despite being one of the most robust Cas12a nucleases, LbCas12a in general is less efficient than SpCas9 for genome editing in human cells, animals, and plants.

    Results

    To improve the editing efficiency of LbCas12a, we conduct saturation mutagenesis inE. coliand identify 1977 positive point mutations of LbCas12a. We selectively assess the editing efficiency of 56 LbCas12a variants in human cells, identifying an optimal LbCas12a variant (RVQ: G146R/R182V/E795Q) with the most robust editing activity. We further test LbCas12a-RV, LbCas12a-RRV, and LbCas12a-RVQ in plants and find LbCas12a-RV has robust editing activity in rice and tomato protoplasts. Interestingly, LbCas12a-RRV, resulting from the stacking of RV and D156R, displays improved editing efficiency in stably transformed rice and poplar plants, leading to up to 100% editing efficiency inT0plants of both plant species. Moreover, this high-efficiency editing occurs even at the non-canonical TTV PAM sites.

    Conclusions

    Our results demonstrate that LbCas12a-RVQ is a powerful tool for genome editing in human cells while LbCas12a-RRV confers robust genome editing in plants. Our study reveals the tremendous potential of these LbCas12a variants for advancing precision genome editing applications across a wide range of organisms.

     
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    Abstract CRISPR-Cas12a is a promising genome editing system for targeting AT-rich genomic regions. Comprehensive genome engineering requires simultaneous targeting of multiple genes at defined locations. Here, to expand the targeting scope of Cas12a, we screen nine Cas12a orthologs that have not been demonstrated in plants, and identify six, ErCas12a, Lb5Cas12a, BsCas12a, Mb2Cas12a, TsCas12a and MbCas12a, that possess high editing activity in rice. Among them, Mb2Cas12a stands out with high editing efficiency and tolerance to low temperature. An engineered Mb2Cas12a-RVRR variant enables editing with more relaxed PAM requirements in rice, yielding two times higher genome coverage than the wild type SpCas9. To enable large-scale genome engineering, we compare 12 multiplexed Cas12a systems and identify a potent system that exhibits nearly 100% biallelic editing efficiency with the ability to target as many as 16 sites in rice. This is the highest level of multiplex edits in plants to date using Cas12a. Two compact single transcript unit CRISPR-Cas12a interference systems are also developed for multi-gene repression in rice and Arabidopsis . This study greatly expands the targeting scope of Cas12a for crop genome engineering. 
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