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CRISPR-Cas12a target binding unleashes indiscriminate single-stranded DNase activity

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Science  27 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6387, pp. 436-439
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar6245

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Taking CRISPR technology further

CRISPR techniques are allowing the development of technologies for nucleic acid detection (see the Perspective by Chertow). Taking advantages of the distinctive enzymatic properties of CRISPR enzymes, Gootenberg et al. developed an improved nucleic acid detection technology for multiplexed quantitative and highly sensitive detection, combined with lateral flow for visual readout. Myhrvold et al. added a sample preparation protocol to create a field-deployable viral diagnostic platform for rapid detection of specific strains of pathogens in clinical samples. Cas12a (also known as Cpf1), a type V CRISPR protein, cleaves double-stranded DNA and has been adapted for genome editing. Chen et al. discovered that Cas12a also processes single-stranded DNA threading activity. A technology platform based on this activity detected human papillomavirus in patient samples with high sensitivity.

Science, this issue p. 439, p. 444, p. 436; see also p. 381

Abstract

CRISPR-Cas12a (Cpf1) proteins are RNA-guided enzymes that bind and cut DNA as components of bacterial adaptive immune systems. Like CRISPR-Cas9, Cas12a has been harnessed for genome editing on the basis of its ability to generate targeted, double-stranded DNA breaks. Here we show that RNA-guided DNA binding unleashes indiscriminate single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) cleavage activity by Cas12a that completely degrades ssDNA molecules. We find that target-activated, nonspecific single-stranded deoxyribonuclease (ssDNase) cleavage is also a property of other type V CRISPR-Cas12 enzymes. By combining Cas12a ssDNase activation with isothermal amplification, we create a method termed DNA endonuclease-targeted CRISPR trans reporter (DETECTR), which achieves attomolar sensitivity for DNA detection. DETECTR enables rapid and specific detection of human papillomavirus in patient samples, thereby providing a simple platform for molecular diagnostics.

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