Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


RNA Therapeutics Institute

First Thesis Advisor

Erik Sontheimer


CRISPR, Cas9, NmeCas9, dCas9, APEX2, dCas9-APEX2, C-BERST, Proximity labeling, Biotinylation, Chromatin, Nuclear biology, Proteomics, Telomere, Centromere, c-fos, Promoter, Transcription, Transcriptional regulation, Dynamics


A bacterial and archaeal adaptive immune system, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated proteins (CRISPR-Cas), has recently been engineered for genome editing. This RNA-guided platform has simplified genetic manipulation and holds promise for therapeutic applications. However, off-target editing has been one of the major concerns of the commonly used Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpyCas9). Despite extensive enzyme engineering to reduce off-target editing of SpyCas9, we have turned to nature and uncovered a Cas9 ortholog from Neisseria meningitidis (Nme) with high fidelity. In the first part of my thesis, we have systematically characterized Nme1Cas9 for engineering mammalian genomes and demonstrated its high specificity by genome-wide off-targeting detection methods in vitro and in cellulo, and thus provided a new platform for accurate genome editing.

Due to its flexibility, CRISPR is becoming a versatile tool not only for genome editing, but also for chromatin manipulation. These alternative applications are possible because of the programmable targeting capacity of catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9). In the second part of my thesis, we have combined dCas9 with the engineered plant enzyme ascorbate peroxidase (APEX2) to develop a proteomic method called dCas9-APEX2 biotinylation at genomic elements by restricted spatial tagging (C-BERST). Relying on the spatially restricted, fast biotin labeling of proteins near defined genomic loci, C-BERST enables the high-throughput identification of known telomere- and centromere- associated proteomes and novel factors. Furthermore, we have extended C-BERST to map the c-fos promoter and gained new insights regarding the dynamic transcriptional regulation process. Taken together, C-BERST can advance our understanding of chromatin regulators and their roles in nuclear and chromosome biology.



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