Engineering a far-red light–activated split-Cas9 system for remote-controlled genome editing of internal organs and tumors

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Science Advances  10 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 28, eabb1777
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb1777


It is widely understood that CRISPR-Cas9 technology is revolutionary, with well-recognized issues including the potential for off-target edits and the attendant need for spatiotemporal control of editing. Here, we describe a far-red light (FRL)–activated split-Cas9 (FAST) system that can robustly induce gene editing in both mammalian cells and mice. Through light-emitting diode–based FRL illumination, the FAST system can efficiently edit genes, including nonhomologous end joining and homology-directed repair, for multiple loci in human cells. Further, we show that FAST readily achieves FRL-induced editing of internal organs in tdTomato reporter mice. Finally, FAST was demonstrated to achieve FRL-triggered editing of the PLK1 oncogene in a mouse xenograft tumor model. Beyond extending the spectrum of light energies in optogenetic toolbox for CRISPR-Cas9 technologies, this study demonstrates how FAST system can be deployed for programmable deep tissue gene editing in both biological and biomedical contexts toward high precision and spatial specificity.

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