Molecular biology at the cutting edge: A review on CRISPR/CAS9 gene editing for undergraduates

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2018 Mar;46(2):195-205. doi: 10.1002/bmb.21108. Epub 2018 Jan 30.


Disrupting a gene to determine its effect on an organism's phenotype is an indispensable tool in molecular biology. Such techniques are critical for understanding how a gene product contributes to the development and cellular identity of organisms. The explosion of genomic sequencing technologies combined with recent advances in genome-editing techniques has elevated the possibilities of genetic manipulations in numerous organisms in which these experiments were previously not readily accessible or possible. Introducing the next generation of molecular biologists to these emerging techniques is key in the modern biology classroom. This comprehensive review introduces undergraduates to CRISPR/Cas9 editing and its uses in genetic studies. The goals of this review are to explain how CRISPR functions as a prokaryotic immune system, describe how researchers generate mutations with CRISPR/Cas9, highlight how Cas9 has been adapted for new functions, and discuss ethical considerations of genome editing. Additionally, anticipatory guides and questions for discussion are posed throughout the review to encourage active exploration of these topics in the classroom. Finally, the supplement includes a study guide and practical suggestions to incorporate CRISPR/Cas9 experiments into lab courses at the undergraduate level. © 2018 The Authors Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 46(2):195-205, 2018.

Keywords: CRISPR; Cas9; dCas9.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Gene Editing*
  • Molecular Biology / education*
  • Students*
  • Universities