Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 is a multiple-turnover enzyme

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Cas9 nuclease is the key effector of type II CRISPR adaptive immune systems found in bacteria. The nuclease can be programmed by a single guide RNA (sgRNA) to cleave DNA in a sequence-specific manner. This property has led to its widespread adoption as a genome editing tool in research laboratories and holds great promise for biotechnological and therapeutic applications. The general mechanistic features of catalysis by Cas9 homologs are comparable; however, a high degree of diversity exists among the protein sequences, which may result in subtle mechanistic differences. S. aureus (SauCas9) and especially S. pyogenes (SpyCas9) are among the best-characterized Cas9 proteins and share ∼17% sequence identity. A notable feature of SpyCas9 is an extremely slow rate of reaction turnover, which is thought to limit the amount of substrate DNA cleavage. Using in vitro biochemistry and enzyme kinetics, we directly compare SpyCas9 and SauCas9 activities. Here, we report that in contrast to SpyCas9, SauCas9 is a multiple-turnover enzyme, which to our knowledge is the first report of such activity in a Cas9 homolog. We also show that DNA cleaved with SauCas9 does not undergo any detectable single-stranded degradation after the initial double-stranded break observed previously with SpyCas9, thus providing new insights and considerations for future design of CRISPR/Cas9-based applications.




Yourik, P., Fuchs, R. T., Mabuchi, M., Curcuru, J. L., & Robb, G. B. (2019). Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 is a multiple-turnover enzyme. RNA, 25(1), 35–44.

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