Optimization of a multiplex CRISPR/Cas system for use as an antiviral therapeutic.
ABSTRACT: RNA-guided endonucleases or CRISPR/Cas systems have been widely employed for gene engineering/DNA editing applications, and have recently been used against a variety of dsDNA viruses as a potential therapeutic. However, in vivo delivery to specific tissue reservoirs using adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors is problematic due to the large coding requirement for the principal effector commonly used in these applications, Streptococcus pyogenes (Spy) Cas9. Here we describe design of a minimal CRISPR/Cas system that is capable of multiplexing and can be packaged into a single AAV vector. This system consists of the small Type II Cas9 protein from Staphylococcus aureus (Sau) driven by a truncated CMV promoter/enhancer, and flanked 3' by a poly(A) addition signal, as well as two sgRNA expression cassettes driven by either U6 or ?70-bp tRNA-derived Pol III promoters. Specific protocols for construction of these AAV vector scaffolds, shuttle cloning of their contents into AAV and lentiviral backbones, and a quantitative luciferase assay capable of screening for optimal sgRNAs, are detailed. These protocols can facilitate construction of AAV vectors that have optimal multiplexed sgRNA expression and function. These will have potential utility in multiplex applications, including in antiviral therapy in tissues chronically infected with a pathogenic DNA virus.
Project description:The in vivo application of CRISPR/Cas-based DNA editing technology will require the development of efficient delivery methods that likely will be dependent on adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based viral vectors. However, AAV vectors have only a modest, ?4.7-kb packaging capacity, which will necessitate the identification and characterization of highly active Cas9 proteins that are substantially smaller than the prototypic Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 protein, which covers ?4.2 kb of coding sequence, as well as the development of single guide RNA (sgRNA) expression cassettes substantially smaller than the current ?360 bp size. Here, we report that small, ?70-bp tRNA promoters can be used to express high levels of tRNA:sgRNA fusion transcripts that are efficiently and precisely cleaved by endogenous tRNase Z to release fully functional sgRNAs. Importantly, cells stably expressing functional tRNA:sgRNA precursors did not show a detectable change in the level of endogenous tRNA expression. This novel sgRNA expression strategy should greatly facilitate the construction of effective AAV-based Cas9/sgRNA vectors for future in vivo use.
Project description:The gene therapy field has been galvanized by two technologies that have revolutionized treating genetic diseases: vectors based on adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas gene-editing tools. When combined into one platform, these safe and broadly tropic biotherapies can be engineered to target any region in the human genome to correct genetic flaws. Unfortunately, few investigations into the design compatibility of CRISPR components in AAV vectors exist. Using AAV-genome population sequencing (AAV-GPseq), we previously found that self-complementary AAV vector designs with strong DNA secondary structures can cause a high degree of truncation events, impacting production and vector efficacy. We hypothesized that the single-guide RNA (sgRNA) scaffold, which contains several loop regions, may also compromise vector integrity. We have therefore advanced the AAV-GPseq method to also interrogate single-strand AAV vectors to investigate whether vector genomes carrying Cas9-sgRNA cassettes can cause truncation events. We found that on their own, sgRNA sequences do not produce a high degree of truncation events. However, we demonstrate that vector genome designs that carry dual sgRNA expression cassettes in tail-to-tail configurations lead to truncations. In addition, we revealed that heterogeneity in inverted terminal repeat sequences in the form of regional deletions inherent to certain AAV vector plasmids can be interrogated.
Project description:Multiplex genome engineering in vivo with CRISPR/Cas9 shows great promise as a potential therapeutic approach. The ability to incorporate multiple single guide RNA (sgRNA) cassettes together with Cas9 gene expression in one AAV vector could greatly enhance the efficiency. In a recent Method article, Mefferd and coworkers indicated that small tRNA promoters could be used to drive sgRNA expression to facilitate the construction of a more effective AAV vector. In contrast, we found that when targeting endogenous genomic loci, CRISPR/Cas9 with tRNA promoter-driven sgRNA expression showed much reduced genome editing activity, compared with significant cleavage with U6 promoter-driven sgRNA expression. Though the underlying mechanisms are still under investigation, our study suggests that the CRISPR/Cas9 system with tRNA promoter-driven sgRNA expression needs to be reevaluated before it can be used for therapeutic genome editing.
Project description:Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have shown promising results in preclinical models, but the genomic consequences of transduction with AAV vectors encoding CRISPR-Cas nucleases is still being examined. In this study, we observe high levels of AAV integration (up to 47%) into Cas9-induced double-strand breaks (DSBs) in therapeutically relevant genes in cultured murine neurons, mouse brain, muscle and cochlea. Genome-wide AAV mapping in mouse brain shows no overall increase of AAV integration except at the CRISPR/Cas9 target site. To allow detailed characterization of integration events we engineer a miniature AAV encoding a 465?bp lambda bacteriophage DNA (AAV-?465), enabling sequencing of the entire integrated vector genome. The integration profile of AAV-465? in cultured cells display both full-length and fragmented AAV genomes at Cas9 on-target sites. Our data indicate that AAV integration should be recognized as a common outcome for applications that utilize AAV for genome editing.
Project description:The Cas9/sgRNA of the CRISPR/Cas system has emerged as a robust technology for targeted gene editing in various organisms, including plants, where Cas9/sgRNA-mediated small deletions/insertions at single cleavage sites have been reported in transient and stable transformations, although genetic transmission of edits has been reported only in Arabidopsis and rice. Large chromosomal excision between two remote nuclease-targeted loci has been reported only in a few non-plant species. Here we report in rice Cas9/sgRNA-induced large chromosomal segment deletions, the inheritance of genome edits in multiple generations and construction of a set of facile vectors for high-efficiency, multiplex gene targeting. Four sugar efflux transporter genes were modified in rice at high efficiency; the most efficient system yielding 87-100% editing in T0 transgenic plants, all with di-allelic edits. Furthermore, genetic crosses segregating Cas9/sgRNA transgenes away from edited genes yielded several genome-edited but transgene-free rice plants. We also demonstrated proof-of-efficiency of Cas9/sgRNAs in producing large chromosomal deletions (115-245 kb) involving three different clusters of genes in rice protoplasts and verification of deletions of two clusters in regenerated T0 generation plants. Together, these data demonstrate the power of our Cas9/sgRNA platform for targeted gene/genome editing in rice and other crops, enabling both basic research and agricultural applications.
Project description:Specific applications of CRISPR/Cas genome editing systems benefit from chemical modifications of the sgRNA. Herein we describe a versatile and efficient strategy for functionalization of the 3'-end of a sgRNA. An exemplary collection of six chemically modified sgRNAs was prepared containing crosslinkers, a fluorophore and biotin. Modification of the sgRNA 3'-end was broadly tolerated by Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 in an in?vitro DNA cleavage assay. The 3'-biotinylated sgRNA was used as an affinity reagent to identify IGF2BP1, YB1 and hnRNP?K as sgRNA-binding proteins present in HEK293T cells. Overall, the modification strategy presented here has the potential to expand on current applications of CRISPR/Cas systems.
Project description:Kiwifruit is an important fruit crop; however, technologies for its functional genomic and molecular improvement are limited. The clustered regulatory interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein (Cas) system has been successfully applied to genetic improvement in many crops, but its editing capability is variable depending on the different combinations of the synthetic guide RNA (sgRNA) and Cas9 protein expression devices. Optimizing conditions for its use within a particular species is therefore needed to achieve highly efficient genome editing. In this study, we developed a new cloning strategy for generating paired-sgRNA/Cas9 vectors containing four sgRNAs targeting the kiwifruit phytoene desaturase gene (AcPDS). Comparing to the previous method of paired-sgRNA cloning, our strategy only requires the synthesis of two gRNA-containing primers which largely reduces the cost. We further compared efficiencies of paired-sgRNA/Cas9 vectors containing different sgRNA expression devices, including both the polycistronic tRNA-sgRNA cassette (PTG) and the traditional CRISPR expression cassette. We found the mutagenesis frequency of the PTG/Cas9 system was 10-fold higher than that of the CRISPR/Cas9 system, coinciding with the relative expressions of sgRNAs in two different expression cassettes. In particular, we identified large chromosomal fragment deletions induced by the paired-sgRNAs of the PTG/Cas9 system. Finally, as expected, we found both systems can successfully induce the albino phenotype of kiwifruit plantlets regenerated from the G418-resistance callus lines. We conclude that the PTG/Cas9 system is a more powerful system than the traditional CRISPR/Cas9 system for kiwifruit genome editing, which provides valuable clues for optimizing CRISPR/Cas9 editing system in other plants.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated proteins (Cas) have recently opened a new avenue for gene therapy. Cas9 nuclease guided by a single-guide RNA (sgRNA) has been extensively used for genome editing. Currently, three Cas9 orthologs have been adapted for in vivo genome engineering applications: Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpyCas9), Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 (SauCas9), and Campylobacter jejuni (CjeCas9). However, additional in vivo editing platforms are needed, in part to enable a greater range of sequences to be accessed via viral vectors, especially those in which Cas9 and sgRNA are combined into a single vector genome. RESULTS:Here, we present in vivo editing using Neisseria meningitidis Cas9 (NmeCas9). NmeCas9 is compact, edits with high accuracy, and possesses a distinct protospacer adjacent motif (PAM), making it an excellent candidate for safe gene therapy applications. We find that NmeCas9 can be used to target the Pcsk9 and Hpd genes in mice. Using tail-vein hydrodynamic-based delivery of NmeCas9 plasmid to target the Hpd gene, we successfully reprogram the tyrosine degradation pathway in Hereditary Tyrosinemia Type I mice. More importantly, we deliver NmeCas9 with its sgRNA in a single recombinant adeno-associated vector (rAAV) to target Pcsk9, resulting in lower cholesterol levels in mice. This all-in-one vector yielded > 35% gene modification after two weeks of vector administration, with minimal off-target cleavage in vivo. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings indicate that NmeCas9 can enable the editing of disease-causing loci in vivo, expanding the targeting scope of RNA-guided nucleases.
Project description:The clustered regulatory interspersed short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein (Cas) system has been widely used for gene knock-out. Lentiviral vectors have been commonly used as a delivery method for this system, however, prolonged Cas9/sgRNA expression due to lentiviral integration can lead to accumulating off-target mutations. To solve this issue in engineering a gene knock-out cell line, this study established a novel system, which was composed of two lentiviral vectors. One lentiviral vector carried simultaneously sgRNAs and CRISPR/Cas9 expression cassettes targeting single or multiple gene(s); the other lentiviral vector carried Cre that could remove excess sgRNAs and Cas9 expression cassettes in the genome after gene targeting was achieved. To prove the principle, two candidate genes, extracellular matrix protein 1 (ECM1) and progranulin (PGRN), both highly expressed in MDA-MB-231 cells, were selected for testing the novel system. A dual knock-out of ECM1 and PGRN was successfully achieved in MDA-MB-231 cell line, with the sgRNAs and Cas9 expression cassettes being removed by Cre. This system should have great potential in applications for multiple genes knock-out in vitro.
Project description:Genome engineering has been revolutionized by the discovery of clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated system genes (Cas) in bacteria. The type IIB Streptococcus pyogenes CRISPR/Cas9 system functions in many species and additional types of CRISPR/Cas systems are under development. In the type II system, expression of CRISPR single guide RNA (sgRNA) targeting a defined sequence and Cas9 generates a sequence-specific nuclease inducing small deletions or insertions. Moreover, knock-in of large DNA inserts has been shown at the sites targeted by sgRNAs and Cas9. Several tools are available for designing sgRNAs that target unique locations in the genome. However, the ability to find sgRNA targets common to several similar sequences or, by contrast, unique to each of these sequences, would also be advantageous. To provide such a tool for several types of CRISPR/Cas system and many species, we developed the CRISPR MultiTargeter software. Similar DNA sequences in question are duplicated genes and sets of exons of different transcripts of a gene. Thus, we implemented a basic sgRNA target search of input sequences for single-sgRNA and two-sgRNA/Cas9 nickase targeting, as well as common and unique sgRNA target searches in 1) a set of input sequences; 2) a set of similar genes or transcripts; or 3) transcripts a single gene. We demonstrate potential uses of the program by identifying unique isoform-specific sgRNA sites in 71% of zebrafish alternative transcripts and common sgRNA target sites in approximately 40% of zebrafish duplicated gene pairs. The design of unique targets in alternative exons is helpful because it will facilitate functional genomic studies of transcript isoforms. Similarly, its application to duplicated genes may simplify multi-gene mutational targeting experiments. Overall, this program provides a unique interface that will enhance use of CRISPR/Cas technology.