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Deciphering the Substrate Specificity Reveals that CRISPR-Cas12a Is a Bifunctional Enzyme with Both Endo- and Exonuclease Activities

Bhattacharya, S and Agarwal, A and Muniyappa, K (2024) Deciphering the Substrate Specificity Reveals that CRISPR-Cas12a Is a Bifunctional Enzyme with Both Endo- and Exonuclease Activities. In: Journal of Molecular Biology, 436 (10).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2024.168550


The class 2 CRISPR-Cas9 and CRISPR-Cas12a systems, originally described as adaptive immune systems of bacteria and archaea, have emerged as versatile tools for genome-editing, with applications in biotechnology and medicine. However, significantly less is known about their substrate specificity, but such knowledge may provide instructive insights into their off-target cleavage and previously unrecognized mechanism of action. Here, we document that the Acidaminococcus sp. Cas12a (AsCas12a) binds preferentially, and independently of crRNA, to a suite of branched DNA structures, such as the Holliday junction (HJ), replication fork and D-loops, compared with single- or double-stranded DNA, and promotes their degradation. Further, our study revealed that AsCas12a binds to the HJ, specifically at the crossover region, protects it from DNase I cleavage and renders a pair of thymine residues in the HJ homologous core hypersensitive to KMnO4 oxidation, suggesting DNA melting and/or distortion. Notably, these structural changes enabled AsCas12a to resolve HJ into nonligatable intermediates, and subsequently their complete degradation. We further demonstrate that crRNA impedes HJ cleavage by AsCas12a, and that of Lachnospiraceae bacterium Cas12a, without affecting their DNA-binding ability. We identified a separation-of-function variant, which uncouples DNA-binding and DNA cleavage activities of AsCas12a. Importantly, we found robust evidence that AsCas12a endonuclease also has 3�-to-5� and 5�-to-3� exonuclease activity, and that these two activities synergistically promote degradation of DNA, yielding di- and mononucleotides. Collectively, this study significantly advances knowledge about the substrate specificity of AsCas12a and provides important insights into the degradation of different types of DNA substrates. © 2024 Elsevier Ltd

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Journal of Molecular Biology
Publisher: Academic Press
Additional Information: The copyright for this article belongs to Academic Press.
Keywords: double stranded DNA; endonuclease; exonuclease; thymine, 3' untranslated region; 5' untranslated region; Acidaminococcus; Article; CRISPR Cas system; DNA binding; DNA denaturation; DNA replication; DNA structure; enzyme activity; enzyme specificity; Lachnospiraceae; Lachnospiraceae bacterium; nonhuman; oxidation
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Biochemistry
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2024 07:26
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2024 07:26
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/84761

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