A molecular glue approach to control the half-life of CRISPR-based technologies

bioRxiv. 2023 Mar 20:2023.03.12.531757. doi: 10.1101/2023.03.12.531757. Preprint


Cas9 is a programmable nuclease that has furnished transformative technologies, including base editors and transcription modulators (e.g., CRISPRi/a), but several applications of these technologies, including therapeutics, mandatorily require precision control of their half-life. For example, such control can help avert any potential immunological and adverse events in clinical trials. Current genome editing technologies to control the half-life of Cas9 are slow, have lower activity, involve fusion of large response elements (> 230 amino acids), utilize expensive controllers with poor pharmacological attributes, and cannot be implemented in vivo on several CRISPR-based technologies. We report a general platform for half-life control using the molecular glue, pomalidomide, that binds to a ubiquitin ligase complex and a response-element bearing CRISPR-based technology, thereby causing the latter's rapid ubiquitination and degradation. Using pomalidomide, we were able to control the half-life of large CRISPR-based technologies (e.g., base editors, CRISPRi) and small anti-CRISPRs that inhibit such technologies, allowing us to build the first examples of on-switch for base editors. The ability to switch on, fine-tune and switch-off CRISPR-based technologies with pomalidomide allowed complete control over their activity, specificity, and genome editing outcome. Importantly, the miniature size of the response element and favorable pharmacological attributes of the drug pomalidomide allowed control of activity of base editor in vivo using AAV as the delivery vehicle. These studies provide methods and reagents to precisely control the dosage and half-life of CRISPR-based technologies, propelling their therapeutic development.

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