Guide RNAs: A glimpse at the sequences that drive crispr–cas systems

Alexandra E. Briner, Rodolphe Barrangou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


CRISPR–Cas systems provide adaptive immunity in bacteria and archaea. Although there are two main classes of CRISPR–Cas systems defined by gene content, interfering RNA biogenesis, and effector proteins, Type II systems have recently been exploited on a broad scale to develop next-generation genetic engineering and genome-editing tools. Conveniently, Type II systems are streamlined and rely on a single protein, Cas9, and a guide RNA molecule, comprised of a CRISPR RNA (crRNA) and transacting CRISPR RNA (tracrRNA), to achieve effective and programmable nucleic acid targeting and cleavage. Currently, most commercially available Cas9-based genome-editing tools use the CRISPR– Cas system from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpyCas9), although many orthogonal Type II systems are available for diverse and multiplexable genome engineering applications. Here, we discuss the biological significance of Type II CRISPR–Cas elements, including the tracrRNA, crRNA, Cas9, and protospacer- adjacent motif (PAM), and look at the native function of these elements to understand how they can be engineered, enhanced, and optimized for genome editing applications. Additionally, we discuss the basis for orthogonal Cas9 and guide RNA systems that would allow researchers to concurrently use multiple Cas9-based systems for different purposes. Understanding the native function of endogenous Type II CRISPR–Cas systems can lead to new Cas9 tool development to expand the genetic manipulation toolbox.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-600
Number of pages7
JournalCold Spring Harbor Protocols
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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