Precision Genome Editing
The CRISPR-Cas system has been used by scientists to accurately edit DNA. CRISPR, which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is part of the nucleic acid-based immune system used by the bacteria defense system. Cas9, on the other hand, is one of the enzymes produced by the CRISPR system. It binds to DNA in a highly sequence-specific manner and cuts it, allowing for accurate DNA manipulation. Now an international team of CRISPR-Cas researchers has identified three new naturally-occurring systems that show potential for genome editing.
The New Discovery
The three newly-characterized systems have common features with Cas9 and Cpf1, another novel CRISPR nuclease that is expected to become an important genome editing tool. However, they still have unique characteristics that may potentially be used for novel DNA editing applications. The researchers used a novel bioinformatics approach to discover the new proteins, termed C2c1, C2c2, and C2c3. They developed a series of computational approaches to search genomic databases of the National Institutes of Health and identify new CRISPR-Cas systems. As the algorithm they used can be modified in several ways, the team is hopeful more CRISPR-Cas mechanisms can still be discovered. Experiments have also begun on these proteins, showing that they are significantly different from the Cas9 protein.