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  1. 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.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 18, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  3. CRISPR-Cas–guided base editors convert A•T to G•C, or C•G to T•A, in cellular DNA for precision genome editing. To understand the molecular basis for DNA adenosine deamination by adenine base editors (ABEs), we determined a 3.2-angstrom resolution cryo–electron microscopy structure of ABE8e in a substrate-bound state in which the deaminase domain engages DNA exposed within the CRISPR-Cas9 R-loop complex. Kinetic and structural data suggest that ABE8e catalyzes DNA deamination up to ~1100-fold faster than earlier ABEs because of mutations that stabilize DNA substrates in a constrained, transfer RNA–like conformation. Furthermore, ABE8e’s accelerated DNA deamination suggests a previously unobserved transient DNA melting that may occur during double-stranded DNA surveillance by CRISPR-Cas9. These results explain ABE8e-mediated base-editing outcomes and inform the future design of base editors.

  4. 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.