Nature-inspired CRISPR enzymes for expansive genome editing

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 14:00 in Biology & Nature

In nature, bacteria use CRISPR as an adaptive immune system to protect themselves against viruses. Over the past decade, scientists have been able to successfully build upon that natural phenomenon with the discovery of CRISPR proteins found in bacteria — the most widely used of which is the Cas9 enzyme. In combination with a guide RNA, Cas9 is able to target, cut, and degrade specific DNA sequences.  With applications ranging from the treatment of genetic diseases to the nutritional potency of agricultural crops, CRISPR has emerged as one of the most promising tools for genome editing. Cas9 enzymes, however, rely on specific DNA ZIP codes to pinpoint where to cut and edit. The most widely-used Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, SpCas9, requires two “G” nucleotides beside target sites. Less than 10 percent of DNA sequences meet this requirement.  In research published this month in both Nature Biotechnology and Nature Communications, a team of computational biologists...

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