An artificial triazole backbone linkage provides a split-and-click strategy to bioactive chemically modified CRISPR sgRNA

L. Taemaitree, A. Shivalingam, A. H. El-Sagheer and T. Brown. Nat. Commun. 10, 2019.


As the applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology diversify and spread beyond the laboratory to diagnostic and therapeutic use, the demands of gRNA synthesis have increased and access to tailored gRNAs is now restrictive. Enzymatic routes are time-consuming, difficult to scale-up and suffer from polymerase-bias while existing chemical routes are inefficient. Here, we describe a split-and-click convergent chemical route to individual or pools of sgRNAs. The synthetic burden is reduced by splitting the sgRNA into a variable DNA/genome-targeting 20-mer, produced on-demand and in high purity, and a fixed Cas9-binding chemically-modified 79-mer, produced cost-effectively on large-scale, a strategy that provides access to site-specific modifications that enhance sgRNA activity and in vivo stability. Click ligation of the two components generates an artificial triazole linkage that is tolerated in functionally critical regions of the sgRNA and allows efficient DNA cleavage in vitro as well as gene-editing in cells with no unexpected off-target effects.