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Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Sep 5;47(15):8126-8135. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz552.

Targeted DNA transposition in vitro using a dCas9-transposase fusion protein.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.


Homology-directed genome engineering is limited by transgene size. Although DNA transposons are more efficient with large transgenes, random integrations are potentially mutagenic. Here we present an in vitro mechanistic study that demonstrates efficient Cas9 targeting of the mariner transposon Hsmar1. Integrations were unidirectional and tightly constrained to one side of the sgRNA binding site. Further analysis of the nucleoprotein intermediates demonstrated that the transposase and Cas9 moieties can bind their respective substrates independently or in concert. Kinetic analysis of the reaction in the presence of the Cas9 target-DNA revealed a delay between first and second strand cleavage at the transposon end. This step involves a significant conformational change that may be hindered by the properties of the interdomainal linker. Otherwise, the transposase moiety behaved normally and was proficient for integration in vitro and in Escherichia coli. Specific integration into the lacZ gene in E. coli was obscured by a high background of random integrations. Nevertheless, Cas9 is an attractive candidate for transposon-targeting because it has a high affinity and long dwell-time at its target site. This will facilitate a future optogenetic strategy for the temporal control of integration, which will increase the ratio of targeted to untargeted events.


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