Illustration of DNA sequences

This DNA-mimicking protein can make gene editing more precise and safe

It switches off CRISPR-Cas9’s molecular scissors.

Scientists have discovered a virus-made protein that can block the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 from cutting DNA. The protein allows researchers to better control CRISPR so that it doesn’t snip unintended pieces of genetic code. In the future, the technique could be used to make gene editing more precise — and safe.

The protein, called AcrIIA4, switches gene editing off by mimicking DNA: it basically acts like a decoy, fooling CRISPR’s molecular scissors into thinking they’re cutting actual DNA. Scientists at several institutions — including CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley — showed that the protein could reduce undesired gene changes in human blood cells. The findings were published today in the journal Science Advances.




UC Berkeley



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