Dynamic interplay between target search and recognition for the Cascade surveillance complex of type I-E CRISPR-Cas systems
CRISPR-Cas effector complexes enable the defense against foreign nucleic acids and have recently been exploited as molecular tools for precise genome editing at a target locus. To bind and cleave their target, the CRISPR-Cas effectors first have to interrogate the entire genome for the presence of a matching sequence. Matching is achieved by base-pairing between the crRNA of the complexes and the DNA target strand such that an R-loop is formed. R-loop formation starts at a specific PAM motif
... progresses reversibly in single base-pair steps until mismatches stop further progression or until the full target is recognized and destroyed. The reversible nature of this process entails that even a fully matching target should only become recognized with a low probability per target encounter. The details of this process, which directly affect the effectiveness of the target search, remain unresolved. Here we dissect the target search process of the Type I CRISPR-Cas complex Cascade by simultaneously monitoring DNA binding and R-loop formation by the complex. We directly quantify the low target recognition probabilities and show that they increase with increasing negative supercoiling. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Cascade uses a combination of three-dimensional and limited one-dimensional diffusion along the DNA contour for its target search. The latter allows for rapidly scanning the PAM sequences in a given region and, importantly, significantly increasing the overall efficiency of the target search by repeatedly revisiting the sites. Overall we show that target search and target recognition are tightly linked and that DNA supercoiling and limited 1D diffusion need to be considered when understanding target recognition and target search by CRISPR-Cas enzymes and engineering more efficient and precise variants.