More CRISPR Proteins Discovered

Researchers identify three new proteins that may serve as alternatives to Cas9.

By Jef Akst | October 23, 2015

Crystal structure of a Cas9 in complex with an RNA guide and a stretch of target DNAWIKIMEDIA, H. NISHIMASU ET AL.

Scouring genomic databases for sequences with similarity to the components of the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the recently identified CRISPR/Cpf1 system, researchers from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), MIT, and Rutgers University have discovered three novel CRISPR systems that could one day provide new gene-editing tools to supplement the currently used CRISPR/Cas9 system. The newly discovered CRISPR systems contain three new proteins, C2c1, C2c2, and C2c3 (named for “Class 2 candidate x”), one of which may cleave RNA.

“This work shows a path to discovery of novel CRISPR/Cas systems with diverse properties, which are demonstrated here in direct experiments,” coauthor Eugene Koonin of NCBI told GenomeWeb. “The most remarkable aspect of the story is how evolution has achieved a broad repertoire of biological activities, a feat we can take advantage of for new genome manipulation tools.” The group published its results yesterday (October 22) in Molecular Cell.

Using such sequence-based techniques, the researchers predict that there are even more CRISPR systems to be discovered, added study coauthor Konstantin Severinov of Rutgers. “There are multiple ways to modify the search algorithm. So more exciting and distinct CRISPR/Cas mechanisms should be expected soon.”

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