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Summary The CRISPR-Cas13 system is an RNA-guided RNA-targeting system, and has been widely used in transcriptome engineering with potentially important clinical applications. However, it is still controversial whether Cas13 exhibits collateral activity in mammalian cells. Here, we found that knocking down gene expression using RfxCas13d in the adult brain neurons caused death of mice, which was not resulted from the loss of target gene function or off-target effects. Mechanistically, we showed that RfxCas13d exhibited collateral activity in mammalian cells, which is positively correlated with the abundance of target RNA. The collateral activity of RfxCas13d could cleave 28s rRNA into two fragments, leading to translation attenuation and activation of the ZAK-JNK/p38-immediate early gene (IEG) pathway. These results provide new mechanistic insights into the collateral activity of RfxCas13d and warn that the biosafety of CRISPR-Cas13 system needs further evaluation before applying it to clinical treatments.

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