Advances in engineering CRISPR-Cas9 as a molecular Swiss Army knife

Grace A. Meaker, Emma J. Hair, Thomas E Gorochowski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The RNA-guided endonuclease system CRISPR-Cas9 has been extensively modified since its discovery, allowing its capabilities to extend far beyond double-stranded cleavage to high fidelity insertions, deletions, and single base edits. Such innovations have been possible due to the modular architecture of CRISPR-Cas9 and the robustness of its component parts to modifications and the fusion of new functional elements. Here, we review the broad toolkit of CRISPR-Cas9-based systems now available for diverse genome editing tasks. We provide an overview of their core molecular structure and mechanism and distil the design principles used to engineer their diverse functionalities. We end by looking beyond the biochemistry and towards the societal and ethical challenges that these CRISPR-Cas9 systems face if their transformative capabilities are to be deployed in a safe and acceptable manner.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSynthetic Biology
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2020

Structured keywords

  • BrisSynBio
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


  • synthetic biology
  • Cas9
  • biotechnology
  • biodesign
  • nickase
  • base editing
  • prime editing
  • genome editing
  • ethics
  • responsible innovation


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