CRISPR base editors: genome editing without double-stranded breaks

Biochem J. 2018 Jun 11;475(11):1955-1964. doi: 10.1042/BCJ20170793.


The CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat)/Cas9 adaptive immunity system has been harnessed for genome editing applications across eukaryotic species, but major drawbacks, such as the inefficiency of precise base editing and off-target activities, remain. A catalytically inactive Cas9 variant (dead Cas9, dCas9) has been fused to diverse functional domains for targeting genetic and epigenetic modifications, including base editing, to specific DNA sequences. As base editing does not require the generation of double-strand breaks, dCas9 and Cas9 nickase have been used to target deaminase domains to edit specific loci. Adenine and cytidine deaminases convert their respective nucleotides into other DNA bases, thereby offering many possibilities for DNA editing. Such base-editing enzymes hold great promise for applications in basic biology, trait development in crops, and treatment of genetic diseases. Here, we discuss recent advances in precise gene editing using different platforms as well as their potential applications in basic biology and biotechnology.

Keywords: CRISPR; CRISPR/Cas; base editors; deaminases; gene editing; genome engineering.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded*
  • Gene Editing*
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Plants / genetics*