Engineered CRISPR-Cas12a variants with increased activities and improved targeting ranges for gene, epigenetic and base editing

Nat Biotechnol. 2019 Mar;37(3):276-282. doi: 10.1038/s41587-018-0011-0. Epub 2019 Feb 11.


Broad use of CRISPR-Cas12a (formerly Cpf1) nucleases1 has been hindered by the requirement for an extended TTTV protospacer adjacent motif (PAM)2. To address this limitation, we engineered an enhanced Acidaminococcus sp. Cas12a variant (enAsCas12a) that has a substantially expanded targeting range, enabling targeting of many previously inaccessible PAMs. On average, enAsCas12a exhibits a twofold higher genome editing activity on sites with canonical TTTV PAMs compared to wild-type AsCas12a, and we successfully grafted a subset of mutations from enAsCas12a onto other previously described AsCas12a variants3 to enhance their activities. enAsCas12a improves the efficiency of multiplex gene editing, endogenous gene activation and C-to-T base editing, and we engineered a high-fidelity version of enAsCas12a (enAsCas12a-HF1) to reduce off-target effects. Both enAsCas12a and enAsCas12a-HF1 function in HEK293T and primary human T cells when delivered as ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. Collectively, enAsCas12a provides an optimized version of Cas12a that should enable wider application of Cas12a enzymes for gene and epigenetic editing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acidaminococcus / enzymology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Endonucleases / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Gene Editing*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Ribonucleoproteins / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Cas12a protein
  • Endonucleases