The type V-A Cas12a protein can process its CRISPR array, a feature useful for multiplexed gene editing and regulation. However, CRISPR arrays often exhibit unpredictable performance due to interference between multiple guide RNA (gRNAs). Here, we report that Cas12a array performance is hypersensitive to the GC content of gRNA spacers, as high-GC spacers can impair activity of the downstream gRNA. We analyze naturally occurring CRISPR arrays and observe that natural repeats always contain an AT-rich fragment that separates gRNAs, which we term a CRISPR separator. Inspired by this observation, we design short, AT-rich synthetic separators (synSeparators) that successfully remove the disruptive effects between gRNAs. We further demonstrate enhanced simultaneous activation of seven endogenous genes in human cells using an array containing the synSeparator. These results elucidate a previously underexplored feature of natural CRISPR arrays and demonstrate how nature-inspired engineering solutions can improve multi-gene control in mammalian cells.
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Source data have been provided for all figures.
- Lei Stanley Qi
- Lei Stanley Qi
- Jens P Magnusson
- Jens P Magnusson
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Joseph T Wade, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, United States
© 2021, Magnusson et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Auxin-inducible degrons are a chemical genetic tool for targeted protein degradation and are widely used to study protein function in cultured mammalian cells. Here we develop CRISPR-engineered mouse lines that enable rapid and highly specific degradation of tagged endogenous proteins in vivo. Most but not all cell types are competent for degradation. By combining ligand titrations with genetic crosses to generate animals with different allelic combinations, we show that degradation kinetics depend upon the dose of the tagged protein, ligand, and the E3 ligase substrate receptor TIR1. Rapid degradation of condensin I and condensin II - two essential regulators of mitotic chromosome structure - revealed that both complexes are individually required for cell division in precursor lymphocytes, but not in their differentiated peripheral lymphocyte derivatives. This generalisable approach provides unprecedented temporal control over the dose of endogenous proteins in mouse models, with implications for studying essential biological pathways and modelling drug activity in mammalian tissues.
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