A Chemical Toolbox for Labeling and Degrading Engineered Cas Proteins

JACS Au. 2021 May 12;1(6):777-785. doi: 10.1021/jacsau.1c00007. eCollection 2021 Jun 28.


The discovery of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and their associated proteins (Cas) has revolutionized the field of genome and epigenome editing. A number of new methods have been developed to precisely control the function and activity of Cas proteins, including fusion proteins and small-molecule modulators. Proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs) represent a new concept using the ubiquitin-proteasome system to degrade a protein of interest, highlighting the significance of chemically induced protein-E3 ligase interaction in drug discovery. Here, we engineered Cas proteins (Cas9, dCas9, Cas12, and Cas13) by inserting a Phe-Cys-Pro-Phe (FCPF) amino acid sequence (known as the π-clamp system) and demonstrate that the modified CasFCPF proteins can be (1) labeled in live cells by perfluoroaromatics carrying the fluorescein or (2) degraded by a perfluoroaromatics-functionalized PROTAC (PROTAC-FCPF). A proteome-wide analysis of PROTAC-FCPF-mediated Cas9FCPF protein degradation revealed a high target specificity, suggesting a wide range of applications of perfluoroaromatics-induced proximity in the regulation of stability, activity, and functionality of any FCPF-tagging protein.