Recombinant Cas9 protein
Type II CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats) RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 (CRISPR associated protein 9) is an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease associated with adaptive immunity system in Streptococcus pyogenes, among other bacteria. S. pyogenes utilizes Cas9 to memorize and later interrogate and cleave foreign DNA, such as invading bacteriophage DNA or plasmid DNA. Cas9 performs this interrogation by unwinding foreign DNA and checking for sites complementary to the 20 basepair spacer region of the guide RNA. If the DNA substrate is complementary to the guide RNA, Cas9 cleaves the invading DNA. In this sense, the CRISPR-Cas9 mechanism has a number of parallels with the RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism in eukaryotes. Apart from its original function in bacterial immunity, the Cas9 protein has been heavily utilized as a genome engineering tool to induce site-directed double strand breaks in DNA. These breaks can lead to gene inactivation or the introduction of heterologous genes through non-homologous end joining and homologous recombination respectively in many laboratory model organisms.