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Creators/Authors contains: "Doudna, Jennifer A"

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  1. Abstract

    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 strategy to be applied to improve the efficacy of other genome-editing proteins.

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  2. Kursula, Petri (Ed.)
    Short segments of RNA displace one strand of a DNA duplex during diverse processes including transcription and CRISPR-mediated immunity and genome editing. These strand exchange events involve the intersection of two geometrically distinct helix types—an RNA:DNA hybrid (A-form) and a DNA:DNA homoduplex (B-form). Although previous evidence suggests that these two helices can stack on each other, it is unknown what local geometric adjustments could enable A-on-B stacking. Here we report the X-ray crystal structure of an RNA-5′/DNA-3′ strand exchange junction at an anisotropic resolution of 1.6 to 2.2 Å. The structure reveals that the A-to-B helical transition involves a combination of helical axis misalignment, helical axis tilting and compression of the DNA strand within the RNA:DNA helix, where nucleotides exhibit a mixture of A- and B-form geometry. These structural principles explain previous observations of conformational stability in RNA/DNA exchange junctions, enabling a nucleic acid architecture that is repeatedly populated during biological strand exchange events. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. null (Ed.)
    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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  5. 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.

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  6. Abstract

    Proteins evolve through the modular rearrangement of elements known as domains. Extant, multidomain proteins are hypothesized to be the result of domain accretion, but there has been limited experimental validation of this idea. Here, we introduce a technique for genetic minimization byiterativesize-exclusion andrecombination (MISER) for comprehensively making all possible deletions of a protein. Using MISER, we generate a deletion landscape for the CRISPR protein Cas9. We find that the catalytically-deadStreptococcus pyogenesCas9 can tolerate large single deletions in the REC2, REC3, HNH, and RuvC domains, while still functioning in vitro and in vivo, and that these deletions can be stacked together to engineer minimal, DNA-binding effector proteins. In total, our results demonstrate that extant proteins retain significant modularity from the accretion process and, as genetic size is a major limitation for viral delivery systems, establish a general technique to improve genome editing and gene therapy-based therapeutics.

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