Anti-CRISPR-mediated control of gene editing and synthetic circuits in eukaryotic cells.
ABSTRACT: Repurposed CRISPR-Cas molecules provide a useful tool set for broad applications of genomic editing and regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Recent discovery of phage-derived proteins, anti-CRISPRs, which serve to abrogate natural CRISPR anti-phage activity, potentially expands the ability to build synthetic CRISPR-mediated circuits. Here, we characterize a panel of anti-CRISPR molecules for expanded applications to counteract CRISPR-mediated gene activation and repression of reporter and endogenous genes in various cell types. We demonstrate that cells pre-engineered with anti-CRISPR molecules become resistant to gene editing, thus providing a means to generate "write-protected" cells that prevent future gene editing. We further show that anti-CRISPRs can be used to control CRISPR-based gene regulation circuits, including implementation of a pulse generator circuit in mammalian cells. Our work suggests that anti-CRISPR proteins should serve as widely applicable tools for synthetic systems regulating the behavior of eukaryotic cells.
Project description:The increasing use of CRISPR-Cas9 in medicine, agriculture, and synthetic biology has accelerated the drive to discover new CRISPR-Cas inhibitors as potential mechanisms of control for gene editing applications. Many anti-CRISPRs have been found that inhibit the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune system. However, comparing all currently known anti-CRISPRs does not reveal a shared set of properties for facile bioinformatic identification of new anti-CRISPR families. Here, we describe AcRanker, a machine learning based method to aid direct identification of new potential anti-CRISPRs using only protein sequence information. Using a training set of known anti-CRISPRs, we built a model based on XGBoost ranking. We then applied AcRanker to predict candidate anti-CRISPRs from predicted prophage regions within self-targeting bacterial genomes and discovered two previously unknown anti-CRISPRs: AcrllA20 (ML1) and AcrIIA21 (ML8). We show that AcrIIA20 strongly inhibits Streptococcus iniae Cas9 (SinCas9) and weakly inhibits Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpyCas9). We also show that AcrIIA21 inhibits SpyCas9, Streptococcus aureus Cas9 (SauCas9) and SinCas9 with low potency. The addition of AcRanker to the anti-CRISPR discovery toolkit allows researchers to directly rank potential anti-CRISPR candidate genes for increased speed in testing and validation of new anti-CRISPRs. A web server implementation for AcRanker is available online at http://acranker.pythonanywhere.com/.
Project description:The efficiency, versatility and multiplexing capacity of RNA-guided genome engineering using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology enables a variety of applications in plants, ranging from gene editing to the construction of transcriptional gene circuits, many of which depend on the technical ability to compose and transfer complex synthetic instructions into the plant cell. The engineering principles of standardization and modularity applied to DNA cloning are impacting plant genetic engineering, by increasing multigene assembly efficiency and by fostering the exchange of well-defined physical DNA parts with precise functional information.Here we describe the adaptation of the RNA-guided Cas9 system to GoldenBraid (GB), a modular DNA construction framework being increasingly used in Plant Synthetic Biology. In this work, the genetic elements required for CRISPRs-based editing and transcriptional regulation were adapted to GB, and a workflow for gRNAs construction was designed and optimized. New software tools specific for CRISPRs assembly were created and incorporated to the public GB resources site.The functionality and the efficiency of gRNA-Cas9 GB tools were demonstrated in Nicotiana benthamiana using transient expression assays both for gene targeted mutations and for transcriptional regulation. The availability of gRNA-Cas9 GB toolbox will facilitate the application of CRISPR/Cas9 technology to plant genome engineering.
Project description:CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems function to protect bacteria from invasion by foreign genetic elements. The CRISPR-Cas9 system has been widely adopted as a powerful genome-editing tool, and phage-encoded inhibitors, known as anti-CRISPRs, offer a means of regulating its activity. Here, we report the crystal structures of anti-CRISPR protein AcrIIC2Nme alone and in complex with Nme1Cas9. We demonstrate that AcrIIC2Nme inhibits Cas9 through interactions with the positively charged bridge helix, thereby preventing sgRNA loading. In vivo phage plaque assays and in vitro DNA cleavage assays show that AcrIIC2Nme mediates its activity through a large electronegative surface. This work shows that anti-CRISPR activity can be mediated through the inhibition of Cas9 complex assembly.
Project description:Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas (CRISPR-associated proteins), a prokaryotic RNA-mediated adaptive immune system, has been repurposed for gene editing and synthetic gene circuit construction both in bacterial and eukaryotic cells. In the last years, the emergence of the anti-CRISPR proteins (Acrs), which are natural OFF-switches for CRISPR-Cas, has provided a new means to control CRISPR-Cas activity and promoted a further development of CRISPR-Cas-based biotechnological toolkits. In this review, we focus on type I and type V-A anti-CRISPR proteins. We first narrate Acrs discovery and analyze their inhibitory mechanisms from a structural perspective. Then, we describe their applications in gene editing and transcription regulation. Finally, we discuss the potential future usage-and corresponding possible challenges-of these two kinds of anti-CRISPR proteins in eukaryotic synthetic gene circuits.
Project description:Cas12a (Cpf1) is a CRISPR-associated nuclease with broad utility for synthetic genome engineering, agricultural genomics, and biomedical applications. Although bacteria harboring CRISPR-Cas9 or CRISPR-Cas3 adaptive immune systems sometimes acquire mobile genetic elements encoding anti-CRISPR proteins that inhibit Cas9, Cas3, or the DNA-binding Cascade complex, no such inhibitors have been found for CRISPR-Cas12a. Here we use a comprehensive bioinformatic and experimental screening approach to identify three different inhibitors that block or diminish CRISPR-Cas12a-mediated genome editing in human cells. We also find a widespread connection between CRISPR self-targeting and inhibitor prevalence in prokaryotic genomes, suggesting a straightforward path to the discovery of many more anti-CRISPRs from the microbial world.
Project description:Anti-CRISPRs (Acrs) are small proteins that inhibit the RNA-guided DNA targeting activity of CRISPR-Cas enzymes. Encoded by bacteriophage and phage-derived bacterial genes, Acrs prevent CRISPR-mediated inhibition of phage infection and can also block CRISPR-Cas-mediated genome editing in eukaryotic cells. To identify Acrs capable of inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 (SauCas9), an alternative to the most commonly used genome editing protein Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpyCas9), we used both self-targeting CRISPR screening and guilt-by-association genomic search strategies. Here we describe three potent inhibitors of SauCas9 that we name AcrIIA13, AcrIIA14, and AcrIIA15. These inhibitors share a conserved N-terminal sequence that is dispensable for DNA cleavage inhibition and have divergent C termini that are required in each case for inhibition of SauCas9-catalyzed DNA cleavage. In human cells, we observe robust inhibition of SauCas9-induced genome editing by AcrIIA13 and moderate inhibition by AcrIIA14 and AcrIIA15. We also find that the conserved N-terminal domain of AcrIIA13-AcrIIA15 binds to an inverted repeat sequence in the promoter of these Acr genes, consistent with its predicted helix-turn-helix DNA binding structure. These data demonstrate an effective strategy for Acr discovery and establish AcrIIA13-AcrIIA15 as unique bifunctional inhibitors of SauCas9.
Project description:Anti-CRISPRs are widespread amongst bacteriophage and promote bacteriophage infection by inactivating the bacterial host's CRISPR-Cas defence system. Identifying and characterizing anti-CRISPR proteins opens an avenue to explore and control CRISPR-Cas machineries for the development of new CRISPR-Cas based biotechnological and therapeutic tools. Past studies have identified anti-CRISPRs in several model phage genomes, but a challenge exists to comprehensively screen for anti-CRISPRs accurately and efficiently from genome and metagenome sequence data. Here, we have developed an ensemble learning based predictor, PaCRISPR, to accurately identify anti-CRISPRs from protein datasets derived from genome and metagenome sequencing projects. PaCRISPR employs different types of feature recognition united within an ensemble framework. Extensive cross-validation and independent tests show that PaCRISPR achieves a significantly more accurate performance compared with homology-based baseline predictors and an existing toolkit. The performance of PaCRISPR was further validated in discovering anti-CRISPRs that were not part of the training for PaCRISPR, but which were recently demonstrated to function as anti-CRISPRs for phage infections. Data visualization on anti-CRISPR relationships, highlighting sequence similarity and phylogenetic considerations, is part of the output from the PaCRISPR toolkit, which is freely available at http://pacrispr.erc.monash.edu/.
Project description:CRISPR-Cas9 technology would be enhanced by the ability to inhibit Cas9 function spatially, temporally, or conditionally. Previously, we discovered small proteins encoded by bacteriophages that inhibit the CRISPR-Cas systems of their host bacteria. These "anti-CRISPRs" were specific to type I CRISPR-Cas systems that do not employ the Cas9 protein. We posited that nature would also yield Cas9 inhibitors in response to the evolutionary arms race between bacteriophages and their hosts. Here, we report the discovery of three distinct families of anti-CRISPRs that specifically inhibit the CRISPR-Cas9 system of Neisseria meningitidis. We show that these proteins bind directly to N. meningitidis Cas9 (NmeCas9) and can be used as potent inhibitors of genome editing by this system in human cells. These anti-CRISPR proteins now enable "off-switches" for CRISPR-Cas9 activity and provide a genetically encodable means to inhibit CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in eukaryotes. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Project description:CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems protect bacteria and archaea against their invading genetic parasites, including bacteriophages/viruses and plasmids. In response to this immunity, many phages have anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins that inhibit CRISPR-Cas targeting. To date, anti-CRISPR genes have primarily been discovered in phage or prophage genomes. Here, we uncovered acr loci on plasmids and other conjugative elements present in Firmicutes using the Listeria acrIIA1 gene as a marker. The four identified genes, found in Listeria, Enterococcus, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus genomes, can inhibit type II-A SpyCas9 or SauCas9, and are thus named acrIIA16-19. In Enterococcus faecalis, conjugation of a Cas9-targeted plasmid was enhanced by anti-CRISPRs derived from Enterococcus conjugative elements, highlighting a role for Acrs in the dissemination of plasmids. Reciprocal co-immunoprecipitation showed that each Acr protein interacts with Cas9, and Cas9-Acr complexes were unable to cleave DNA. Northern blotting suggests that these anti-CRISPRs manipulate single guide RNA length, loading or stability. Mirroring their activity in bacteria, AcrIIA16 and AcrIIA17 provide robust and highly potent broad-spectrum inhibition of distinct Cas9 proteins in human cells (for example, SpyCas9, SauCas9, SthCas9, NmeCas9 and CjeCas9). This work presents a focused analysis of non-phage Acr proteins, demonstrating a role in horizontal gene transfer bolstered by broad-spectrum CRISPR-Cas9 inhibition.
Project description:The CRISPR/nCas9-based cytosine base editors (CBEs) and adenine base editors (ABEs) are capable of catalyzing C•G to T•A or A•T to G•C conversions, respectively, and have become new, powerful tools for achieving precise genetic changes in a wide range of organisms. These base editors hold great promise for correcting pathogenic mutations and for being used for therapeutic applications. However, the recognition of cognate DNA sequences near their target sites can cause severe off-target effects that greatly limit their clinical applications, and this is an urgent problem that needs to be resolved for base editing systems. The recently discovered phage-derived proteins, anti-CRISPRs, which can suppress the natural CRISPR nuclease activity, may be able to ameliorate the off-target effects of base editing systems. Here, we confirm for the first time that AcrIIA2, AcrIIA4, and AcrIIA5 efficiently inhibit base editing systems in human cells. In particular, AcrIIA5 has a significant inhibitory effect on all base editing variant systems tested in our study. We further show that the off-target effects of BE3 and ABE7.10 were significantly reduced in AcrIIA5 treated cells. This study suggests that AcrIIA5 should be widely used for the precise control of base editing and to thoroughly "shut off" nuclease activity of both CBE and ABE systems.