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Expanding the range of editable targets in the wheat genome using the variants of the Cas12a and Cas9 nucleases

By Wei Wang, Bin Tian, Qianli Pan, Yueying Chen, Fei He, Guihua Bai, Alina Akhunova, Harold Trick, Eduard Akhunov

Posted 10 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.09.418624

The development of CRISPR-based editors having different protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) recognition specificities, or guide RNA length/structure requirements broadens the range of possible genome editing applications. Here, we evaluated the natural and engineered variants of Cas12a (FnCas12a from Francisella novicida and LbCas12a from Lachnospiraceae bacterium) and Cas9 for wheat genome editing efficiency and ability to induce heritable mutations in endogenous genes controlling important agronomic traits in wheat. Unlike FnCas12a, LbCas12a was able to induce mutations in the wheat genome in the current study, even though with a lower rate than that reported for SpCas9. The eight-fold improvement in the gene editing efficiency was achieved for LbCas12a by using the guide RNAs flanked by ribozymes and driven by the RNA polymerase II promoter from switchgrass. The efficiency of multiplexed genome editing (MGE) using LbCas12a was mostly similar to that obtained using the simplex RNA guides. A LbCas12a-MGE construct was successfully applied for generating heritable mutations in a gene controlling grain size and weight in wheat. We show that the range of editable loci in the wheat genome could be expanded by using the engineered variants of Cas12a (LbCas12a-RVR) and Cas9 (Cas9-NG and xCas9) that recognize the TATV and NG PAMs, respectively, with the Cas9-NG showing higher editing efficiency on the targets with atypical PAMs compared to xCas9. In conclusion, our study reports the set of validated natural and engineered variants of Cas12a and Cas9 editors for targeting loci in the wheat genome not amenable to Cas9-based modification.

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