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Catalytic Mechanism of Non-Target DNA Cleavage in CRISPR-Cas9 Revealed by Ab Initio Molecular Dynamics


Casalino, Lorenzo; Nierzwicki, Łukasz; Jinek, Martin; Palermo, Giulia (2020). Catalytic Mechanism of Non-Target DNA Cleavage in CRISPR-Cas9 Revealed by Ab Initio Molecular Dynamics. ACS Catalysis, 10(22):13596-13605.

Abstract

CRISPR-Cas9 is a cutting-edge genome editing technology, which uses the endonuclease Cas9 to introduce mutations at desired sites of the genome. This revolutionary tool is promising to treat a myriad of human genetic diseases. Nevertheless, the molecular basis of DNA cleavage, which is a fundamental step for genome editing, has not been established. Here, quantum-classical molecular dynamics (MD) and free energy methods are used to disclose the two-metal-dependent mechanism of phosphodiester bond cleavage in CRISPR-Cas9. Ab initio MD reveals a conformational rearrangement of the Mg2+-bound RuvC active site, which entails the relocation of H983 to act as a general base. Then, the DNA cleavage proceeds through a concerted associative pathway fundamentally assisted by the joint dynamics of the two Mg2+ ions. This clarifies previous controversial experimental evidence, which could not fully establish the catalytic role of the conserved H983 and the metal cluster conformation. The comparison with other two-metal-dependent enzymes supports the identified mechanism and suggests a common catalytic strategy for genome editing and recombination. Overall, the non-target DNA cleavage catalysis described here resolves a fundamental open question in the CRISPR-Cas9 biology and provides valuable insights for improving the catalytic efficiency and the metal-dependent function of the Cas9 enzyme, which are at the basis of the development of genome editing tools.

Abstract

CRISPR-Cas9 is a cutting-edge genome editing technology, which uses the endonuclease Cas9 to introduce mutations at desired sites of the genome. This revolutionary tool is promising to treat a myriad of human genetic diseases. Nevertheless, the molecular basis of DNA cleavage, which is a fundamental step for genome editing, has not been established. Here, quantum-classical molecular dynamics (MD) and free energy methods are used to disclose the two-metal-dependent mechanism of phosphodiester bond cleavage in CRISPR-Cas9. Ab initio MD reveals a conformational rearrangement of the Mg2+-bound RuvC active site, which entails the relocation of H983 to act as a general base. Then, the DNA cleavage proceeds through a concerted associative pathway fundamentally assisted by the joint dynamics of the two Mg2+ ions. This clarifies previous controversial experimental evidence, which could not fully establish the catalytic role of the conserved H983 and the metal cluster conformation. The comparison with other two-metal-dependent enzymes supports the identified mechanism and suggests a common catalytic strategy for genome editing and recombination. Overall, the non-target DNA cleavage catalysis described here resolves a fundamental open question in the CRISPR-Cas9 biology and provides valuable insights for improving the catalytic efficiency and the metal-dependent function of the Cas9 enzyme, which are at the basis of the development of genome editing tools.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_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
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Catalysis
Physical Sciences > General Chemistry
Language:English
Date:20 November 2020
Deposited On:12 Feb 2021 13:06
Last Modified:13 Feb 2021 21:00
Publisher:American Chemical Society (ACS)
ISSN:2155-5435
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1021/acscatal.0c03566
PubMed ID:33520346

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Embargo till: 2021-11-20