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  1. Abstract

    Robust and precise transcript targeting in mammalian cells remains a difficult challenge using existing approaches due to inefficiency, imprecision and subcellular compartmentalization. Here we show that the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Csm complex, a multiprotein effector from type III CRISPR immune systems in prokaryotes, provides surgical RNA ablation of both nuclear and cytoplasmic transcripts. As part of the most widely occurring CRISPR adaptive immune pathway, CRISPR-Csm uses a programmable RNA-guided mechanism to find and degrade target RNA molecules without inducing indiscriminatetrans-cleavage of cellular RNAs, giving it an important advantage over the CRISPR-Cas13 family of enzymes. Using single-vector delivery of theStreptococcus thermophilusCsm complex, we observe high-efficiency RNA knockdown (90–99%) and minimal off-target effects in human cells, outperforming existing technologies including short hairpin RNA- and Cas13-mediated knockdown. We also find that catalytically inactivated Csm achieves specific and durable RNA binding, a property we harness for live-cell RNA imaging. These results establish the feasibility and efficacy of multiprotein CRISPR-Cas effector complexes as RNA-targeting tools in eukaryotes.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    CRISPR–Cas adaptive immune systems capture DNA fragments from invading mobile genetic elements and integrate them into the host genome to provide a template for RNA-guided immunity1. CRISPR systems maintain genome integrity and avoid autoimmunity by distinguishing between self and non-self, a process for which the CRISPR/Cas1–Cas2 integrase is necessary but not sufficient2–5. In some microorganisms, the Cas4 endonuclease assists CRISPR adaptation6,7, but many CRISPR–Cas systems lack Cas48. Here we show here that an elegant alternative pathway in a type I-E system uses an internal DnaQ-like exonuclease (DEDDh) to select and process DNA for integration using the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM). The natural Cas1–Cas2/exonuclease fusion (trimmer-integrase) catalyses coordinated DNA capture, trimming and integration. Five cryo-electron microscopy structures of the CRISPR trimmer-integrase, visualized both before and during DNA integration, show how asymmetric processing generates size-defined, PAM-containing substrates. Before genome integration, the PAM sequence is released by Cas1 and cleaved by the exonuclease, marking inserted DNA as self and preventing aberrant CRISPR targeting of the host. Together, these data support a model in which CRISPR systems lacking Cas4 use fused or recruited9,10exonucleases for faithful acquisition of new CRISPR immune sequences.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 22, 2024
  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. null (Ed.)