MOST people who know CRISPR think of CRISPR-Cas9. However, Yiping Qi and colleagues from the University of Maryland are constantly exploring new CRISPR tools that are more effective, efficient, and sophisticated for different crop applications to help fight diseases, pests, and the effects of a changing climate.
Qi and his lab have established a new CRISPR genome engineering system for plant systems for the first time: CRISPRCas12b, a versatile, customizable, and ultimately provides effective gene editing, activation, and repression all in one system. Qi said that this is the first demonstration of the CRISPRCas12b system for plant genome engineering that is focused not only on editing but also on developing gene repression and activation. This complete suite of methods is missing in other CRISPR systems in plants such as CRISPR-Cas9 and CRISPRCas12a.
CRISPR-Cas12b is more similar to CRISPR-Cas12a, but there was never a strong ability to provide gene activation in plants with this system. CRISPR-Cas12b provides greater efficiency for gene activation and the potential for broader targeting sites for gene repression, making it useful in cases where genetic expression of a trait needs to be turned on/up or off/down. This ability gives CRISPRCas12b an edge over CRISPR Cas12a, particularly when gene activation is the goal. CRISPR-Cas12b retains what CRISPR-Cas12a could do for plants, including the ability to customize cuts and gene regulation across a broad range of applications.
In fact, Qi was even able to repurpose the CRISPR-Cas12b system for multiplexed genome editing, making it possible to simultaneously target multiple genes in a single step.