Engineering designer beta cells with a CRISPR-Cas9 conjugation platform

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 13;11(1):4043. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17725-0.


Genetically fusing protein domains to Cas9 has yielded several transformative technologies; however, the genetic modifications are limited to natural polypeptide chains at the Cas9 termini, which excludes a diverse array of molecules useful for gene editing. Here, we report chemical modifications that allow site-specific and multiple-site conjugation of a wide assortment of molecules on both the termini and internal sites of Cas9, creating a platform for endowing Cas9 with diverse functions. Using this platform, Cas9 can be modified to more precisely incorporate exogenously supplied single-stranded oligonucleotide donor (ssODN) at the DNA break site. We demonstrate that the multiple-site conjugation of ssODN to Cas9 significantly increases the efficiency of precision genome editing, and such a platform is compatible with ssODNs of diverse lengths. By leveraging the conjugation platform, we successfully engineer INS-1E, a β-cell line, to repurpose the insulin secretion machinery, which enables the glucose-dependent secretion of protective immunomodulatory factor interleukin-10.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / chemistry*
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / genetics
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / metabolism*
  • Cell Engineering / methods*
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Editing
  • Humans
  • Insulin Infusion Systems
  • Synthetic Biology / methods*


  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9