RNA virus interference via CRISPR/Cas13a system in plants

Rashid Aman, Zahir Ali, Haroon Butt, Ahmed Mahas, Fatimah Aljedaani, Muhammad Zuhaib Khan, Shouwei Ding, Magdy Mahfouz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations


Background: CRISPR/Cas systems confer immunity against invading nucleic acids and phages in bacteria and archaea. CRISPR/Cas13a (known previously as C2c2) is a class 2 type VI-A ribonuclease capable of targeting and cleaving single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecules of the phage genome. Here, we employ CRISPR/Cas13a to engineer interference with an RNA virus, Turnip Mosaic Virus (TuMV), in plants. Results: CRISPR/Cas13a produces interference against green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing TuMV in transient assays and stable overexpression lines of Nicotiana benthamiana. CRISPR RNA (crRNAs) targeting the HC-Pro and GFP sequences exhibit better interference than those targeting other regions such as coat protein (CP) sequence. Cas13a can also process pre-crRNAs into functional crRNAs. Conclusions: Our data indicate that CRISPR/Cas13a can be used for engineering interference against RNA viruses, providing a potential novel mechanism for RNA-guided immunity against RNA viruses and for other RNA manipulations in plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalGenome biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Professor James Carrington for TuMV-GFP and members of the Laboratory for Genome Engineering at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology for helpful discussions and comments on the manuscript. This publication is based upon work supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) under Award No. OSR-2015-CRG4-2647.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s). 2018.


  • CRISPR/Cas systems
  • CRISPR/Cas13a
  • Molecular immunity
  • RNA interference
  • RNA knockdown
  • Transcriptome regulation
  • Virus interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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