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CRISPR-Cas9 conformational activation as elucidated from enhanced molecular simulations


Palermo, Giulia; Miao, Yinglong; Walker, Ross C; Jinek, Martin; McCammon, J Andrew (2017). CRISPR-Cas9 conformational activation as elucidated from enhanced molecular simulations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(28):7260-7265.

Abstract

CRISPR-Cas9 has become a facile genome editing technology, yet the structural and mechanistic features underlying its function are unclear. Here, we perform extensive molecular simulations in an enhanced sampling regime, using a Gaussian-accelerated molecular dynamics (GaMD) methodology, which probes displacements over hundreds of microseconds to milliseconds, to reveal the conformational dynamics of the endonuclease Cas9 during its activation toward catalysis. We disclose the conformational transition of Cas9 from its apo form to the RNA-bound form, suggesting a mechanism for RNA recruitment in which the domain relocations cause the formation of a positively charged cavity for nucleic acid binding. GaMD also reveals the conformation of a catalytically competent Cas9, which is prone for catalysis and whose experimental characterization is still limited. We show that, upon DNA binding, the conformational dynamics of the HNH domain triggers the formation of the active state, explaining how the HNH domain exerts a conformational control domain over DNA cleavage [Sternberg SH et al. (2015) Nature, 527, 110-113]. These results provide atomic-level information on the molecular mechanism of CRISPR-Cas9 that will inspire future experimental investigations aimed at fully clarifying the biophysics of this unique genome editing machinery and at developing new tools for nucleic acid manipulation based on CRISPR-Cas9.

Abstract

CRISPR-Cas9 has become a facile genome editing technology, yet the structural and mechanistic features underlying its function are unclear. Here, we perform extensive molecular simulations in an enhanced sampling regime, using a Gaussian-accelerated molecular dynamics (GaMD) methodology, which probes displacements over hundreds of microseconds to milliseconds, to reveal the conformational dynamics of the endonuclease Cas9 during its activation toward catalysis. We disclose the conformational transition of Cas9 from its apo form to the RNA-bound form, suggesting a mechanism for RNA recruitment in which the domain relocations cause the formation of a positively charged cavity for nucleic acid binding. GaMD also reveals the conformation of a catalytically competent Cas9, which is prone for catalysis and whose experimental characterization is still limited. We show that, upon DNA binding, the conformational dynamics of the HNH domain triggers the formation of the active state, explaining how the HNH domain exerts a conformational control domain over DNA cleavage [Sternberg SH et al. (2015) Nature, 527, 110-113]. These results provide atomic-level information on the molecular mechanism of CRISPR-Cas9 that will inspire future experimental investigations aimed at fully clarifying the biophysics of this unique genome editing machinery and at developing new tools for nucleic acid manipulation based on CRISPR-Cas9.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Biochemistry
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Biochemistry
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:11 July 2017
Deposited On:09 Aug 2017 09:52
Last Modified:10 Aug 2017 07:27
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1707645114
PubMed ID:28652374

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