The capacity to efficiently deliver the gene-editing enzyme complex to target cells is favored over other forms of gene delivery as it offers one-time hit-and-run gene editing, thus improving precision and safety and reducing potential immunogenicity against edited cells in clinical applications. Here we performed a proof-of-mechanism study and demonstrated that a simian adenoviral vector for DNA delivery can be repurposed as a robust intracellular delivery platform for a functional Cas9/guide RNA (gRNA) complex to recipient cells. In this system, the clinically relevant adenovirus was genetically engineered with a plug-and-display technology based on SpyTag003/SpyCatcher003 coupling chemistry. Under physiological conditions, an off-the-shelf mixture of viral vector with SpyTag003 incorporated into surface capsid proteins and Cas9 fused with SpyCatcher003 led to a rapid titration reaction yielding adenovirus carrying Cas9SpyCatcher003 on the virus surface. The Cas9 fusion protein-conjugated viruses in the presence of a reporter gRNA delivered gene-editing functions to cells with an efficiency comparable to that of a commercial CRISPR/Cas9 transfection reagent. Our data fully validate the adenoviral "piggyback" approach to deliver an intracellularly acting enzyme cargo and, thus, warrant the prospect of engineering tissue-targeted adenovirus carrying Cas9/gRNA for in vivo gene editing.
Keywords: Cas9/gRNA complex; SpyCatcher003; SpyTag003; gene editing; simian adenovirus.