Defining and improving the genome-wide specificities of CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases

Nat Rev Genet. 2016 May;17(5):300-12. doi: 10.1038/nrg.2016.28.


CRISPR-Cas9 RNA-guided nucleases are a transformative technology for biology, genetics and medicine owing to the simplicity with which they can be programmed to cleave specific DNA target sites in living cells and organisms. However, to translate these powerful molecular tools into safe, effective clinical applications, it is of crucial importance to carefully define and improve their genome-wide specificities. Here, we outline our state-of-the-art understanding of target DNA recognition and cleavage by CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases, methods to determine and improve their specificities, and key considerations for how to evaluate and reduce off-target effects for research and therapeutic applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Endonucleases / metabolism*
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans


  • DNA
  • Endonucleases