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Shifted PAMs generate DNA overhangs and enhance SpCas9 post-catalytic complex dissociation

Jinglong Wang, Julien Le Gall, Richard L Frock, Terence R Strick


Using Sanger sequencing and high-throughput genome sequencing of DNA cleavage reactions, we find that the Streptococcus pyogenes SpCas9 complex responds to internal mechanical strain by robustly generating a distribution of overhanging, rather than blunt, DNA ends. Internal mechanical strain is generated by shifting (increasing or decreasing) the spacing between the RNA-DNA hybrid and the downstream canonical PAM. Up to 2-base 3’ overhangs can be robustly generated via a 2-base increase in the distance between hybrid and PAM. We also use single-molecule experiments to reconstruct the full course of the CRISPR-SpCas9 reaction in real-time, structurally and kinetically monitoring and quantifying R-loop formation, the first and second DNA-incision events, and dissociation of the post-catalytic complex. Complex dissociation and release of broken DNA ends is a rate-limiting step of the reaction, and shifted SpCas9 is sufficiently destabilized so as to rapidly dissociate after formation of broken DNA ends.

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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2023 Nov ;30(11):1707-1718. doi : 10.1038/s41594-023-01104-6.