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Allosteric Inhibition of CRISPR-Cas9 by Bacteriophage-derived Peptides

By Yanru Cui, Shaojie Wang, Jun Chen, Jie Li, Wenzhang Chen, Shuyue Wang, Bing Meng, Wei Zhu, Zhuhong Zhang, Bei Yang, Biao Jiang, Guang Yang, Peixiang Ma, Jia Liu

Posted 20 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/642538

Background: CRISPR-Cas9 has been developed as a therapeutic agent for various infectious and genetic diseases. In many clinically relevant applications, constitutively active CRISPR-Cas9 is delivered into human cells without a temporal control system. Excessive and prolonged expression CRISPR-Cas9 can lead to elevated off-target cleavage. The need for modulating CRISPR-Cas9 activity over the dimensions of time and dose has created the demand of developing CRISPR-Cas off-switches. Protein and small molecule-based CRISPR-Cas inhibitors have been reported in previous studies. Results: We report the discovery of Cas9-inhibiting peptides from inoviridae bacteriophages. These peptides, derived from the periplasmic domain of phage major coat protein G8P (G8PPD), can inhibit the in vitro activity of Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) proteins in an allosteric manner. Importantly, the inhibitory activity of G8PPD on SpCas9 is dependent on the order of guide RNA addition. Ectopic expression of full-length G8P (G8PFL) or G8PPD in human cells can inactivate the genome-editing activity of SpCas9 with minimum alterations of the mutation patterns. Furthermore, unlike the anti-CRISPR protein AcrII4A that completely abolishes the cellular activity of CRISPR-Cas9, G8P co-transfection can reduce the off-target activity of co-transfected SpCas9 while retaining its on-target activity. Conclusion: G8Ps discovered in the current study represent the first anti-CRISPR peptides that can allosterically inactivate CRISPR-Cas9. This finding may provide insights into developing next-generation CRISPR-Cas inhibitors for precision genome engineering.

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