The CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is widely used for genome editing because it cleaves target DNA through the assistance of a single-guide RNA (sgRNA). Structural studies have revealed the multi-domain architecture of Cas9 and suggested sequential domain movements of Cas9 upon binding to the sgRNA and the target DNA These studies also hinted at the flexibility between domains; however, it remains unclear whether these flexible movements occur in solution. Here, we directly observed dynamic fluctuations of multiple Cas9 domains, using single-molecule FRET We found that the flexible domain movements allow Cas9 to adopt transient conformations beyond those captured in the crystal structures. Importantly, the HNH nuclease domain only accessed the DNA cleavage position during such flexible movements, suggesting the importance of this flexibility in the DNA cleavage process. Our FRET data also revealed the conformational flexibility of apo-Cas9, which may play a role in the assembly with the sgRNA Collectively, our results highlight the potential role of domain fluctuations in driving Cas9-catalyzed DNA cleavage.© 2018 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY NC ND 4.0 license.
Journal: The EMBO journal