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FEBS J. 2016 Sep;283(17):3181-93. doi: 10.1111/febs.13768. Epub 2016 Jul 2.

Next stop for the CRISPR revolution: RNA-guided epigenetic regulators.

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Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Design, Center for Life Sciences Boston, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.


Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins offer a breakthrough platform for cheap, programmable, and effective sequence-specific DNA targeting. The CRISPR-Cas system is naturally equipped for targeted DNA cutting through its native nuclease activity. As such, groups researching a broad spectrum of biological organisms have quickly adopted the technology with groundbreaking applications to genomic sequence editing in over 20 different species. However, the biological code of life is not only encoded in genetics but also in epigenetics as well. While genetic sequence editing is a powerful ability, we must also be able to edit and regulate transcriptional and epigenetic code. Taking inspiration from work on earlier sequence-specific targeting technologies such as zinc fingers (ZFs) and transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs), researchers quickly expanded the CRISPR-Cas toolbox to include transcriptional activation, repression, and epigenetic modification. In this review, we highlight advances that extend the CRISPR-Cas toolkit for transcriptional and epigenetic regulation, as well as best practice guidelines for these tools, and a perspective on future applications.


CRISPR-associated protein 9; activation; clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; epigenetic; repression; transcription

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