High-throughput continuous evolution of compact Cas9 variants targeting single-nucleotide-pyrimidine PAMs

Nat Biotechnol. 2023 Jan;41(1):96-107. doi: 10.1038/s41587-022-01410-2. Epub 2022 Sep 8.


Despite the availability of Cas9 variants with varied protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM) compatibilities, some genomic loci-especially those with pyrimidine-rich PAM sequences-remain inaccessible by high-activity Cas9 proteins. Moreover, broadening PAM sequence compatibility through engineering can increase off-target activity. With directed evolution, we generated four Cas9 variants that together enable targeting of most pyrimidine-rich PAM sequences in the human genome. Using phage-assisted noncontinuous evolution and eVOLVER-supported phage-assisted continuous evolution, we evolved Nme2Cas9, a compact Cas9 variant, into variants that recognize single-nucleotide pyrimidine-PAM sequences. We developed a general selection strategy that requires functional editing with fully specified target protospacers and PAMs. We applied this selection to evolve high-activity variants eNme2-T.1, eNme2-T.2, eNme2-C and eNme2-C.NR. Variants eNme2-T.1 and eNme2-T.2 offer access to N4TN PAM sequences with comparable editing efficiencies as existing variants, while eNme2-C and eNme2-C.NR offer less restrictive PAM requirements, comparable or higher activity in a variety of human cell types and lower off-target activity at N4CN PAM sequences.

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 / genetics
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / metabolism
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Gene Editing*
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • Pyrimidines


  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9
  • Pyrimidines