Harnessing noncanonical crRNA for highly efficient genome editing

Guanhua Xun, Zhixin Zhu, Nilmani Singh, Jingxia Lu, Piyush K. Jain, Huimin Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The CRISPR-Cas12a system is more advantageous than the widely used CRISPR-Cas9 system in terms of specificity and multiplexibility. However, its on-target editing efficiency is typically much lower than that of the CRISPR-Cas9 system. Here we improved its on-target editing efficiency by simply incorporating 2-aminoadenine (base Z, which alters canonical Watson-Crick base pairing) into the crRNA to increase the binding affinity between crRNA and its complementary DNA target. The resulting CRISPR-Cas12a (named zCRISPR-Cas12a thereafter) shows an on-target editing efficiency comparable to that of the CRISPR-Cas9 system but with much lower off-target effects than the CRISPR-Cas9 system in mammalian cells. In addition, zCRISPR-Cas12a can be used for precise gene knock-in and highly efficient multiplex genome editing. Overall, the zCRISPR-Cas12a system is superior to the CRISPR-Cas9 system, and our simple crRNA engineering strategy may be extended to other CRISPR-Cas family members as well as their derivatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3823
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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