Type III CRISPR systems detect invading RNA, resulting in the activation of the enzymatic Cas10 subunit. The Cas10 cyclase domain generates cyclic oligoadenylate (cOA) second messenger molecules, activating a variety of effector nucleases that degrade nucleic acids to provide immunity. The prophage-encoded Vibrio metoecus type III-B (VmeCmr) locus is uncharacterised, lacks the HD nuclease domain in Cas10 and encodes a NucC DNA nuclease effector that is also found associated with Cyclic-oligonucleotide-based anti-phage signalling systems (CBASS). Here we demonstrate that VmeCmr is activated by target RNA binding, generating cyclic-triadenylate (cA3) to stimulate a robust NucC-mediated DNase activity. The specificity of VmeCmr is probed, revealing the importance of specific nucleotide positions in segment 1 of the RNA duplex and the protospacer flanking sequence (PFS). We harness this programmable system to demonstrate the potential for a highly specific and sensitive assay for detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA with a limit of detection (LoD) of 2 fM using a commercial plate reader without any extrinsic amplification step. The sensitivity is highly dependent on the guide RNA used, suggesting that target RNA secondary structure plays an important role that may also be relevant in vivo.
Copyright © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Grüschow, S., Adamson, C. & White, M. 2021, 'Specificity and sensitivity of an RNA targeting type III CRISPR complex coupled with a NucC endonuclease effector', Nucleic Acids Research, 49(22), pp. 13122-13134. https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkab1190