Abstract

RNA and DNA profiles can help classify a variety of biological states, including disease, metabolism and cell type. In a proof-of-concept study on novel genetically encodable components for detecting single-stranded oligonucleotides, we engineered switchable CRISPR guide RNA (swigRNA) with Cas9 affinity that is conditional on sensing an oligo trigger molecule (trigRNA or trigDNA). RNA- and DNA-sensing swigRNAs that serve as off-to-on and on-to-off switches for Cas9 cleavage were achieved by computational design of hybridization dependencies in the guide. This study highlights functional swigRNA structures that implement toehold-gated strand-displacement with their triggers, and should merit further engineering and kinetic characterization.