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Engineered tracrRNA for enabling versatile CRISPR-dCas9-based biosensing concepts

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

In recent years, CRISPR-Cas (stands for: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats - CRISPR associated protein) based technologies have gained increasing attention in the biosensing field. Thanks to excellent sequence specificity, their use is of particular interest for detecting nucleic acid (NA) targets. In this context, signal generation and amplification can be realized by employing the cis-cleavage activity of the Cas9 protein, although other options involving the catalytically inactive dead Cas9 (dCas9) are increasingly explored. The latter are however mostly based on complex protein engineering processes and often lack efficient signal amplification. Here we showed for the first time that flexible signal generation and amplification properties can be integrated into the CRISPR-dCas9 complex based on a straightforward incorporation of a DNA sequence into the trans-activating CRISPR RNA (tracrRNA). The intrinsic nuclease activity of the engineered complex remained conserved, while the incorporated DNA stretch enabled two modes of amplified fluorescent signal generation: (1) as an RNA-cleaving DNA-based enzyme (DNAzyme) or (2) as hybridization site for biotinylated DNA probes, allowing subsequent enzyme labeling. Both signal generation strategies were demonstrated in solution as well as while coupled to a solid surface. Finally, in a proof of concept bioassay, we demonstrated the successful detection of single stranded DNA on magnetic microbeads using the engineered CRISPR-dCas9 complex. Thanks to the flexibility of incorporating different NA-based signal generation and amplification strategies, this novel NA engineering approach holds enormous promise for many new CRISPR-based biosensing applications.
Journal: Biosensors & Bioelectronics
ISSN: 0956-5663
Volume: 206