Engineered CRISPR-Cas9 nuclease with expanded targeting space

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The RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 cleaves its target DNA and is a powerful genome-editing tool. However, the widely used Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 enzyme (SpCas9) requires an NGG protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) for target recognition, thereby restricting the targetable genomic loci. Here, we report a rationally engineered SpCas9 variant (SpCas9-NG) that can recognize relaxed NG PAMs. The crystal structure revealed that the loss of the base-specific interaction with the third nucleobase is compensated by newly introduced non–base-specific interactions, thereby enabling the NG PAM recognition. We showed that SpCas9-NG induces indels at endogenous target sites bearing NG PAMs in human cells. Furthermore, we found that the fusion of SpCas9-NG and the activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) mediates the C-to-T conversion at target sites with NG PAMs in human cells.

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