Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology - Research Publications

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    Reprogrammed CRISPR-Cas13b suppresses SARS-CoV-2 replication and circumvents its mutational escape through mismatch tolerance
    Fareh, M ; Zhao, W ; Hu, W ; Casan, JML ; Kumar, A ; Symons, J ; Voskoboinik, I ; Ekert, P ; Rudraraju, R ; Lewin, S ; Trapani, J ( 2020)


    Mutation-driven evolution of SARS coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) highlights the need for innovative approaches that simultaneously suppress viral replication and circumvent viral escape routes from host immunity and antiviral therapeutics. Here, we employed genome-wide computational prediction and singlenucleotide resolution screening to reprogram CRISPR-Cas13b against SARS-CoV-2 genomic and subgenomic RNAs. Reprogrammed Cas13b effectors targeting accessible regions of Spike and Nucleocapsid transcripts achieved >98% silencing efficiency in virus free-models. Further, optimized and multiplexed gRNAs suppressed viral replication by up to 90% in mammalian cells infected with replication-competent SARS-CoV-2. Unexpectedly, the comprehensive mutagenesis of guide-target interaction demonstrated that single-nucleotide mismatches do not impair the capacity of a potent single gRNA to simultaneously suppress ancestral and mutated SARS-CoV-2 in infected mammalian cells, including the highly infectious and globally disseminated Spike D614G mutant. The specificity, efficiency and rapid deployment properties of reprogrammed Cas13b described here provide a molecular blueprint of antiviral therapeutics to simultaneously suppress a wide range of SARS-CoV-2 mutants, and is readily adaptable to other emerging pathogenic viruses.