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Beyond Cas9 - Feb 5, 2019

Researchers are scouring the ends of the Earth for additional CRISPR enzymes beyond Cas9, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Cas9, it notes, is a well-known mainstay that makes a blunt DNA cut, but there are other enzymes that make other types of cuts as well. For instance, Cas12 and CasX make staggered cuts, it says. Additionally, the enzymes differ in size, and the LA Times notes that it may be easier to get smaller enzymes into cells to do the work.

"Each of these proteins has shortcomings and strengths, and together they help us create a much more versatile box of tools," the Broad Institute's Feng Zhang tells the LA Times.

One of the newly found proteins is CasX, the LA Times says. In Nature this week researchers from led by University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna described this protein, reporting on how it binds and cuts DNA and suggesting that it is the result of convergent evolution.

The LA Times adds that researchers are finding these proteins in sometimes-unexpected places: CasX and CasY were found among bacteria living in aquifers and Cas12b was discovered in a NASA clean room.