5 years ago

Disabling Cas9 by an anti-CRISPR DNA mimic

Rauch, J. E., Corn, Bondy-Denomy, Jiang, J.-J., N. L., F., Baik, J., J. A., Liu, S. H., B. J., Shing, E., Bray, Doudna, Nogales
CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology is derived from a microbial adaptive immune system, where bacteriophages are often the intended target. Natural inhibitors of CRISPR-Cas9 enable phages to evade immunity and show promise in controlling Cas9-mediated gene editing in human cells. However, the mechanism of CRISPR-Cas9 inhibition is not known and the potential applications for Cas9 inhibitor proteins in mammalian cells has not fully been established. We show here that the anti-CRISPR protein AcrIIA4 binds only to assembled Cas9-single guide RNA (sgRNA) complexes and not to Cas9 protein alone. A 3.9 A resolution cryo-EM structure of the Cas9-sgRNA-AcrIIA4 complex revealed that the surface of AcrIIA4 is highly acidic and binds with 1:1 stoichiometry to a region of Cas9 that normally engages the DNA protospacer adjacent motif (PAM). Consistent with this binding mode, order-of-addition experiments showed that AcrIIA4 interferes with DNA recognition but has no effect on pre-formed Cas9-sgRNA-DNA complexes. Timed delivery of AcrIIA4 into human cells as either protein or expression plasmid allows on-target Cas9-mediated gene editing while reducing off-target edits. These results provide a mechanistic understanding of AcrIIA4 function and demonstrate that inhibitors can modulate the extent and outcomes of Cas9-mediated gene editing.

Publisher URL: http://biorxiv.org/cgi/content/short/129627v1

DOI: 10.1101/129627

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