Deep learning and CRISPR-Cas13d ortholog discovery for optimized RNA targeting

Cell Syst. 2023 Dec 20;14(12):1087-1102.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2023.11.006. Epub 2023 Dec 12.


Effective and precise mammalian transcriptome engineering technologies are needed to accelerate biological discovery and RNA therapeutics. Despite the promise of programmable CRISPR-Cas13 ribonucleases, their utility has been hampered by an incomplete understanding of guide RNA design rules and cellular toxicity resulting from off-target or collateral RNA cleavage. Here, we quantified the performance of over 127,000 RfxCas13d (CasRx) guide RNAs and systematically evaluated seven machine learning models to build a guide efficiency prediction algorithm orthogonally validated across multiple human cell types. Deep learning model interpretation revealed preferred sequence motifs and secondary features for highly efficient guides. We next identified and screened 46 novel Cas13d orthologs, finding that DjCas13d achieves low cellular toxicity and high specificity-even when targeting abundant transcripts in sensitive cell types, including stem cells and neurons. Our Cas13d guide efficiency model was successfully generalized to DjCas13d, illustrating the power of combining machine learning with ortholog discovery to advance RNA targeting in human cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems* / genetics
  • Deep Learning*
  • Humans
  • RNA* / genetics
  • RNA, Guide, CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Transcriptome


  • RNA
  • RNA, Guide, CRISPR-Cas Systems