CRISPR/Cas9-based epigenome editing: An overview of dCas9-based tools with special emphasis on off-target activity.


University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology, Division of Molecular Biology, Horvatovac 102a, HR-10000 Zagreb, Croatia. Electronic address: [Email]


Molecular tools for gene regulation and epigenome editing consist of two main parts: the targeting moiety binding a specific genomic locus and the effector domain performing the editing or regulatory function. The advent of CRISPR-Cas9 technology enabled easy and flexible targeting of almost any locus by co-expression of a small sgRNA molecule, which is complementary to the target sequence and forms a complex with Cas9, directing it to that particular target. Here, we review strategies for recruitment of effector domains, used in gene regulation and epigenome editing, to the dCas9 DNA-targeting protein. To date, the most important CRISPR-Cas9 applications in gene regulation are CRISPR activation or interference, while epigenome editing focuses on targeted changes in DNA methylation and histone modifications. Several strategies for signal amplification by recruitment of multiple effector domains deserve special focus. While some approaches rely on altering the sgRNA molecule and extending it with aptamers for effector domain recruitment, others use modifications to the Cas9 protein by direct fusions with effector domains or by addition of an epitope tag, which also has the ability to bind multiple effector domains. A major barrier to the widespread use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology for therapeutic purposes is its off-target effect. We review efforts to enhance CRISPR-Cas9 specificity by selection of Cas9 orthologs from various bacterial species and their further refinement by introduction of beneficial mutations. The molecular tools available today enable a researcher to choose the best balance of targeting flexibility, activity amplification, delivery method and specificity.


CRISPR/Cas,Cas9 off-target,Cas9 orthologs,Epigenome editing,Genome editing,dCas9,

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