CRISPR/Cas9 (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR associated protein 9) nuclease expression vectors are among several types of emerging genome editing tools that can quickly and efficiently create mutations at target sites of a genome (the other two popular ones being ZFN and TALEN).
Cas9 is a member of a class of RNA-guided DNA nucleases which are part of a natural prokaryotic immune system that confers resistance to foreign genetic elements such as plasmids and bacteriophage. Within the cell, the Cas9 enzyme forms a complex with a guide RNA (gRNA), which provides targeting specificity through direct interaction with homologous 18-22nt target sequences in the genome. Hybridization of the gRNA to the target site localizes Cas9, which then cuts the target site in the genome.
To achieve CRISPR-mediated gene targeting it is essential for the target cells to co-express Cas9 and the target site-specific gRNA at the same time. This can be accomplished by either expressing both Cas9 and the gRNA sequence from the same vector (a.k.a. all-in-one vector) or by using separate vectors for driving Cas9 and gRNA expression (Cas9 only and gRNA only vectors, respectively). The advantage of using separate vectors over an all-in-one vector for expressing Cas9 and gRNA is that it offers the flexibility of using different gRNA expression vectors in conjunction with a variety of Cas9 variants (wild type nuclease, Cas9 nickase, dCas9, etc.) depending upon the user’s experimental goal. Additionally, using a separate Cas9 vector allows generation of stable cell lines with high levels of Cas9 expression which can then be transfected with the desired gRNA sequences. This approach can help to achieve better targeting performance than compared to an all-in-one CRISPR vector due to uniform and high-level of Cas9 expression in all cells.
Our piggyBac Cas9 expression vector system is a simple and efficient method for permanently introducing Cas9 into a wide variety of mammalian cell types. It is a transposon-based system that utilizes plasmid transfection (rather than viral transduction) to permanently integrate a Cas9 expression cassette into the host cell genome. The piggyBac Cas9 expression vector system contains two vectors, both engineered as E. coli plasmids. One vector, referred to as the helper plasmid, encodes the transposase. The other vector, referred to as the transposon plasmid, contains two inverted terminal repeats (ITRs) bracketing the region to be transposed, which includes the Cas9-expression cassette.
When the helper and transposon plasmids are co-transfected into target cells, the transposase produced from the helper plasmid recognizes the two ITRs on the transposon, and inserts the flanked region including the two ITRs into the host genome. PiggyBac is a class II transposon, meaning that it moves in a cut-and-paste manner, hopping from place to place without leaving copies behind. (In contrast, class I transposons move in a copy-and-paste manner.) Because the helper plasmid is only transiently transfected into host cells, it will get lost over time. With the loss of the helper plasmid, the integration of the Cas9-expressing transposon in the genome of host cells becomes permanent. If these cells are transfected with the helper plasmid again, the transposon could get excised from the genome of some cells, footprint free.
We offer multiple variants of the most widely used SpCas9 derived from Streptococcus pyogenes, to help you find the right Cas9 suitable for your experimental design. These include - hCas9, the standard humanized version of wild type SpCas9 which efficiently generates double-strand breaks (DSBs) at target sites; hCas9-D10A, the “nickase” mutant form of hCas9 which generates only single-stranded cuts in DNA; dCas9, a catalytically inactive variant of SpCas9, bearing both D10A and H840A mutations; SpCas9-HF1, a high-fidelity variant of SpCas9; and eSpCas9, an enhanced specificity variant of SpCas9. Fusions of dCas9 with activation domains such as dCas9/VP64 and dCas9/VPR or with repression domains such as dCas9/KRAB are also available for CRISPRa and CRISPRi applications respectively. Additionally, we offer SaCas9 derived from Staphylococcus aureus for applications requiring a shorter Cas9 variant compared to Spcas9 and AsCpf1 derived from Acidaminococcus for achieving DNA cleavage via staggered DNA double stand breaks.
For further information about this vector system, please refer to the papers below.