PAM-flexible dual base editor-mediated random mutagenesis and self-activation strategies to improve CRISPRa potency

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-37
Journal / PublicationMolecular Therapy - Methods and Clinical Development
Online published29 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2022



VP64 is the smallest transactivation domain that can be packaged together with the sgRNA into a single adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector. However, VP64-based CRISPRa often exerts modest activation to the target gene when only one sgRNA is used. Herein, we used PAM-flexible dual base editor-mediated mutagenesis and self-activation strategies to derive VP64 variants with gain-of-function mutations. First, we generated an HEK293FT transgenic clone to stably expressing pTK-CRISPRa-GFP. The sgRNA of CRISPRa was designed to target the TK promoter, thereby allowing self-activation of CRISPRa-GFP. Base editors were then used to randomly mutagenesis VP64 in this transgenic cell. VP64 with enhanced potency would translate into increment of GFP fluorescence intensity, thereby allowing positive selection of the desired VP64 mutants. This strategy has enabled us to identify several VP64 variants that are more potent than the wild-type VP64. ΔCRISPRa derived from these VP64 variants also efficiently activated the endogenous promoter of anti-aging and longevity genes (KLOTHO, SIRT6, and NFE2L2) in human cells. Since the overall size of these ΔCRISPRa transgenes is not increased, it remains feasible for all-in-one AAV applications. The strategies described here can facilitate high-throughput screening of the desired protein variants and adapted to evolve any other effector domains.

Research Area(s)

  • adeno-associated virus, base editing, dual base editor, nCas9-NG, positive feedback, SpRY, VP16, VP64

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