Polarity of the CRISPR roadblock to transcription
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) utility relies on a stable Cas effector complex binding to its target site. However, a Cas complex bound to DNA may be removed by motor proteins carrying out host processes and the mechanism governing this removal remains unclear. Intriguingly, during CRISPR interference, RNA polymerase (RNAP) progression is only fully blocked by a bound endonuclease-deficient Cas (dCas) from the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM)-proximal side. By mapping dCas-DNA interactions at high resolution, we discovered that the collapse of the dCas R-loop allows Escherichia coli RNAP read-through from the PAM-distal side for both Spâ€“dCas9 and Asâ€“dCas12a. This finding is not unique to RNAP and holds for the Mfd translocase. This mechanistic understanding allowed us to modulate the dCas R-loop stability by modifying the guide RNAs. This work highlights the importance of the R-loop in dCas-binding stability and provides valuable mechanistic insights for broad applications of CRISPR technology. Â© 2022, The Author(s).