CRISPR-Cas "Non-Target" Sites Inhibit On-Target Cutting Rates.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

CRISPR-Cas systems have become ubiquitous for genome editing in eukaryotic as well as bacterial systems. Cas9 forms a complex with a guide RNA (gRNA) and searches DNA for a matching sequence (target site) next to a protospacer adjacent motif (PAM). Once found, Cas9 cuts the DNA. Cas9 is revolutionary for the ability to change the RNA sequence and target a new site easily. However, while algorithms have been developed to predict gRNA-specific Cas9 activity, a fundamental biological understanding of gRNA-specific activity is lacking. The number of PAM sites in the genome is effectively a large pool of inhibitory substrates, competing with the target site for the Cas9/gRNA complex. We demonstrate that increasing the number of non-target sites for a given gRNA reduces on-target activity in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, we show that the use of Cas9 mutants with increased PAM specificity toward a smaller subset of PAMs (or smaller pool of competitive substrates) improves cutting rates, while increased PAM promiscuity decreases cutting rates. Decreasing the potential search space by increasing PAM specificity provides a path toward improving on-target activity for slower high-fidelity Cas9 variants. Engineering improved PAM specificity to reduce the competitive search space offers an alternative strategy to engineer Cas9 variants with increased specificity and maintained on-target activity.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Moreb, EA; Hutmacher, M; Lynch, MD

Published Date

  • December 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 3 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 550 - 561

PubMed ID

  • 33346713

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2573-1602

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2573-1599

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1089/crispr.2020.0065


  • eng