CRISPR-Cas12a: Functional overview and applications

Biomed J. 2020 Feb;43(1):8-17. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2020 Feb 5.


Prokaryotes have developed an adaptive immune system called Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) to combat attacks by foreign mobile genetic elements (MGEs) such as plasmids and phages. In the past decade, the widely characterized CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme has been redesigned to trigger a genome editing revolution. Class II type V CRISPR-Cas12a is a new RNA guided endonuclease that has been recently harnessed as an alternative genome editing tool, which is emerging as a powerful molecular scissor to consider in the genome editing application landscape. In this review, we aim to provide a mechanistic insight into the working mechanism of Cas12a, comparing it with Cas9, and eventually provide an overview of its current applications in genome editing and biotechnology applications.

Keywords: CRISPR-Cas12a; Endonuclease recycling; Genome editing; Indiscriminate ssDNAse; RNA guided endonucleases; crRNA biogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Endonucleases / genetics*
  • Endonucleases / metabolism
  • Gene Editing* / methods
  • Humans
  • RNA / genetics


  • RNA
  • Endonucleases