Research ArticleGENETICS

Improving the efficiency of precise genome editing with site-specific Cas9-oligonucleotide conjugates

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Science Advances  08 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 15, eaaz0051
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz0051


Site-specific chemical conjugation of proteins can enhance their therapeutic and diagnostic utility but has seldom been applied to CRISPR-Cas9, which is a rapidly growing field with great therapeutic potential. The low efficiency of homology-directed repair remains a major hurdle in CRISPR-Cas9–mediated precise genome editing, which is limited by low concentration of donor DNA template at the cleavage site. In this study, we have developed methodology to site-specifically conjugate oligonucleotides to recombinant Cas9 protein containing a genetically encoded noncanonical amino acid with orthogonal chemical reactivity. The Cas9-oligonucleotide conjugates recruited an unmodified donor DNA template to the target site through base pairing, markedly increasing homology-directed repair efficiency in both human cell culture and mouse zygotes. These chemically modified Cas9 mutants provide an additional tool, one that is complementary to chemically modified nucleic acids, for improving the utility of CRISPR-Cas9–based genome-editing systems.

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