Structural and functional insights into the bona fide catalytic state of Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 HNH nuclease domain.
ABSTRACT: The CRISPR-associated endonuclease Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpyCas9), along with a programmable single-guide RNA (sgRNA), has been exploited as a significant genome-editing tool. Despite the recent advances in determining the SpyCas9 structures and DNA cleavage mechanism, the cleavage-competent conformation of the catalytic HNH nuclease domain of SpyCas9 remains largely elusive and debatable. By integrating computational and experimental approaches, we unveiled and validated the activated Cas9-sgRNA-DNA ternary complex in which the HNH domain is neatly poised for cleaving the target DNA strand. In this catalysis model, the HNH employs the catalytic triad of D839-H840-N863 for cleavage catalysis, rather than previously implicated D839-H840-D861, D837-D839-H840, or D839-H840-D861-N863. Our study contributes critical information to defining the catalytic conformation of the HNH domain and advances the knowledge about the conformational activation underlying Cas9-mediated DNA cleavage.
Project description:The bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 immune system has been harnessed as a powerful and versatile genome-editing tool and holds immense promise for future therapeutic applications. Despite recent advances in understanding Cas9 structures and its functional mechanism, little is known about the catalytic state of the Cas9 HNH nuclease domain, and identifying how the divalent metal ions affect the HNH domain conformational transition remains elusive. A deeper understanding of Cas9 activation and its cleavage mechanism can enable further optimization of Cas9-based genome-editing specificity and efficiency. Using two distinct molecular dynamics simulation techniques, we have obtained a cross-validated catalytically active state of Cas9 HNH domain primed for cutting the target DNA strand. Moreover, herein we demonstrate the essential roles of the catalytic Mg2+ for the active state formation and stability. Importantly, we suggest that the derived catalytic conformation of the HNH domain can be exploited for rational engineering of Cas9 variants with enhanced specificity.
Project description:High-resolution Cas9 structures have yet to reveal catalytic conformations due to HNH nuclease domain positioning away from the cleavage site. Nme1Cas9 and Nme2Cas9 are compact nucleases for in vivo genome editing. Here, we report structures of meningococcal Cas9 homologs in complex with sgRNA, dsDNA, or the AcrIIC3 anti-CRISPR protein. DNA-bound structures represent an early step of target recognition, a later HNH pre-catalytic state, the HNH catalytic state, and a cleaved-target-DNA-bound state. In the HNH catalytic state of Nme1Cas9, the active site is seen poised at the scissile phosphodiester linkage of the target strand, providing a high-resolution view of the active conformation. The HNH active conformation activates the RuvC domain. Our structures explain how Nme1Cas9 and Nme2Cas9 read distinct PAM sequences and how AcrIIC3 inhibits Nme1Cas9 activity. These structures provide insights into Cas9 domain rearrangements, guide-target engagement, cleavage mechanism, and anti-CRISPR inhibition, facilitating the optimization of these genome-editing platforms.
Project description:Understanding the conformational dynamics of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat)-Cas9 is of the utmost importance for improving its genome editing capability. Here, molecular dynamics simulations performed using Anton-2 - a specialized supercomputer capturing micro-to-millisecond biophysical events in real time and at atomic-level resolution - reveal the activation process of the endonuclease Cas9 toward DNA cleavage. Over the unbiased simulation, we observe that the spontaneous approach of the catalytic domain HNH to the DNA cleavage site is accompanied by a remarkable structural remodeling of the recognition (REC) lobe, which exerts a key role for DNA cleavage. Specifically, the significant conformational changes and the collective conformational dynamics of the REC lobe indicate a mechanism by which the REC1-3 regions 'sense' nucleic acids, 'regulate' the HNH conformational transition, and ultimately 'lock' the HNH domain at the cleavage site, contributing to its catalytic competence. By integrating additional independent simulations and existing experimental data, we provide a solid validation of the activated HNH conformation, which had been so far poorly characterized, and we deliver a comprehensive understanding of the role of REC1-3 in the activation process. Considering the importance of the REC lobe in the specificity of Cas9, this study poses the basis for fully understanding how the REC components control the cleavage of off-target sequences, laying the foundation for future engineering efforts toward improved genome editing.
Project description:CRISPR-Cas9 is a widely employed genome-editing tool with functionality reliant on the ability of the Cas9 endonuclease to introduce site-specific breaks in double-stranded DNA. In this system, an intriguing allosteric communication has been suggested to control its DNA cleavage activity through flexibility of the catalytic HNH domain. Here, solution NMR experiments and a novel Gaussian-accelerated molecular dynamics (GaMD) simulation method are used to capture the structural and dynamic determinants of allosteric signaling within the HNH domain. We reveal the existence of a millisecond time scale dynamic pathway that spans HNH from the region interfacing the adjacent RuvC nuclease and propagates up to the DNA recognition lobe in full-length CRISPR-Cas9. These findings reveal a potential route of signal transduction within the CRISPR-Cas9 HNH nuclease, advancing our understanding of the allosteric pathway of activation. Further, considering the role of allosteric signaling in the specificity of CRISPR-Cas9, this work poses the mechanistic basis for novel engineering efforts aimed at improving its genome-editing capability.
Project description:CRISPR-Cas9 technology has been widely used for genome engineering. Its RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 binds specifically to target DNA and then cleaves the two DNA strands with HNH and RuvC nuclease domains. However, structural information regarding the DNA cleavage-activating state of two nuclease domains remains sparse. Here, we report a 5.2?Å cryo-EM structure of Cas9 in complex with sgRNA and target DNA. This structure reveals a conformational state of Cas9 in which the HNH domain is closest to the DNA cleavage site. Compared with two known HNH states, our structure shows that the HNH active site moves toward the cleavage site by about 25 and 13?Å, respectively. In combination with EM-based molecular dynamics simulations, we show that residues of the nuclease domains in our structure could form cleavage-compatible conformations with the target DNA. Together, these results strongly suggest that our cryo-EM structure resembles a DNA cleavage-activating architecture of Cas9.
Project description:CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful tool for target genome editing in living cells. Significant advances have been made to understand how this system cleaves target DNA. HNH is a nuclease domain, which shares structural similarity with the HNH endonuclease characterzied by a beta-beta-alpha-metal fold. Therefore, based on one- and two-metal-ion mechanisms, homology modeling and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation are suitable tools for building an atomic model of Cas9 in the DNA cleavage state. Here, by modeling and MD, we presented an atomic model of SpCas9-sgRNA-DNA complex with the cleavage state. This model shows that the HNH and RuvC conformations resemble their DNA cleavage state where the active-sites in the complex coordinate with DNA, Mg<sup>2+</sup> ions, and water. Among them, residues D10, E762, H983, and D986 locate at the first shell of the RuvC active-site and interact with the ions directly, residues H982 or/and H985 are general (Lewis) bases, and the coordinated water is located at the positions for nucleophilic attack of the scissile phosphate. Meanwhile, this catalytic model led us to engineer a new SpCas9 variant (SpCas9-H982A + H983D) with reduced off-target effects. Thus, our study provided new mechanistic insights into the CRISPR-Cas9 system in the DNA cleavage state and offered useful guidance for engineering new CRISPR-Cas9 editing systems with improved specificity.
Project description:The CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is widely used for genome editing because it cleaves target DNA through the assistance of a single-guide RNA (sgRNA). Structural studies have revealed the multi-domain architecture of Cas9 and suggested sequential domain movements of Cas9 upon binding to the sgRNA and the target DNA These studies also hinted at the flexibility between domains; however, it remains unclear whether these flexible movements occur in solution. Here, we directly observed dynamic fluctuations of multiple Cas9 domains, using single-molecule FRET We found that the flexible domain movements allow Cas9 to adopt transient conformations beyond those captured in the crystal structures. Importantly, the HNH nuclease domain only accessed the DNA cleavage position during such flexible movements, suggesting the importance of this flexibility in the DNA cleavage process. Our FRET data also revealed the conformational flexibility of apo-Cas9, which may play a role in the assembly with the sgRNA Collectively, our results highlight the potential role of domain fluctuations in driving Cas9-catalyzed DNA cleavage.
Project description:The RNA-guided Cas9 endonuclease from Streptococcus pyogenes is a single-turnover enzyme that displays a stable product state after double-stranded-DNA cleavage. Here, we present cryo-EM structures of precatalytic, postcatalytic and product states of the active Cas9-sgRNA-DNA complex in the presence of Mg<sup>2+</sup>. In the precatalytic state, Cas9 adopts the 'checkpoint' conformation with the HNH nuclease domain positioned far away from the DNA. Transition to the postcatalytic state involves a dramatic ~34-Å swing of the HNH domain and disorder of the REC2 recognition domain. The postcatalytic state captures the cleaved substrate bound to the catalytically competent HNH active site. In the product state, the HNH domain is disordered, REC2 returns to the precatalytic conformation, and additional interactions of REC3 and RuvC with nucleic acids are formed. The coupled domain motions and interactions between the enzyme and the RNA-DNA hybrid provide new insights into the mechanism of genome editing by Cas9.
Project description:Cas9 nuclease is the key effector of type II CRISPR adaptive immune systems found in bacteria. The nuclease can be programmed by a single guide RNA (sgRNA) to cleave DNA in a sequence-specific manner. This property has led to its widespread adoption as a genome editing tool in research laboratories and holds great promise for biotechnological and therapeutic applications. The general mechanistic features of catalysis by Cas9 homologs are comparable; however, a high degree of diversity exists among the protein sequences, which may result in subtle mechanistic differences. <i>S. aureus</i> (SauCas9) and especially <i>S. pyogenes</i> (SpyCas9) are among the best-characterized Cas9 proteins and share ?17% sequence identity. A notable feature of SpyCas9 is an extremely slow rate of reaction turnover, which is thought to limit the amount of substrate DNA cleavage. Using in vitro biochemistry and enzyme kinetics, we directly compare SpyCas9 and SauCas9 activities. Here, we report that in contrast to SpyCas9, SauCas9 is a multiple-turnover enzyme, which to our knowledge is the first report of such activity in a Cas9 homolog. We also show that DNA cleaved with SauCas9 does not undergo any detectable single-stranded degradation after the initial double-stranded break observed previously with SpyCas9, thus providing new insights and considerations for future design of CRISPR/Cas9-based applications.
Project description:The bacterial CRISPR-Cas system provides adaptive immunity against invading phages. Cas9, an RNA-guided endonuclease, specifically cleaves target DNA substrates and constitutes a well-established platform for genome editing. Recently, anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins that inhibit Cas9 have been discovered, promising a useful off-switch for Cas9 to avoid undesirable off-target effects. Here, we report the solution structure and dynamics of Listeria monocytogenes AcrIIA4 that inhibits Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpyCas9). AcrIIA4 forms a compact monomeric ?????? fold comprising three antiparallel ? strands flanked by three ?-helices and a short 310-helix. AcrIIA4 exhibits distinct backbone dynamics in fast and slow timescales at loop regions that form interaction surfaces for SpyCas9. In particular, the ?1-?2 loop that binds to the RuvC domain of SpyCas9 is highly mobile, and the ?1-?2 and ?2-?3 loops that bind to the RuvC and C-terminal domains of SpyCas9, respectively, undergoes conformational exchanges in microsecond-to-millisecond time scales. AcrIIA4 binds to apo-SpyCas9 with KD ~4.8 ?M, which compares to KD ~0.6?nM for AcrIIA4 binding to sgRNA-bound SpyCas9. Since the binary complex between AcrIIA4 and SpyCas9 does not compete with the target DNA binding, it can effectively disable the Cas9 nuclease activity by forming a tight ternary complex in the presence of sgRNA.