ABSTRACT: Cas9 nucleases can be programmed with single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) to mediate gene editing. High CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene knockout efficiencies are essential for genetic screens and critically depend on the properties of the sgRNAs used. The specificity of an sgRNA is defined by its targeting sequence. Here, we discovered that two short sequence motifs at the 3' end of the targeting sequence are almost exclusively present in inefficient sgRNAs of published sgRNA-activity datasets. By specific knock-in of sgRNA target sequences with or without these motifs and quantitative measurement of knockout efficiency, we show that the presence of these motifs in sgRNAs per se results in a 10-fold reduction of gene knockout frequencies. Mechanistically, the cause of the low efficiency differs between the two motifs. These sequence motifs are relevant for future sgRNA design approaches and studies of Cas9-DNA interactions.
Project description:CRISPR/Cas9 is a powerful gene editing tool for gene knockout studies and functional genomic screens. Successful implementation of CRISPR often requires Cas9 to elicit efficient target knockout in a population of cells. In this study, we investigated the role of several key factors, including variation in target copy number, inherent potency of sgRNA guides, and expression level of Cas9 and sgRNA, in determining CRISPR knockout efficiency. Using isogenic, clonal cell lines with variable copy numbers of an EGFP transgene, we discovered that CRISPR knockout is relatively insensitive to target copy number, but is highly dependent on the potency of the sgRNA guide sequence. Kinetic analysis revealed that most target mutation occurs between 5 and 10 days following Cas9/sgRNA transduction, while sgRNAs with different potencies differ by their knockout time course and by their terminal-phase knockout efficiency. We showed that prolonged, low level expression of Cas9 and sgRNA often fails to elicit target mutation, particularly if the potency of the sgRNA is also low. Our findings provide new insights into the behavior of CRISPR/Cas9 in mammalian cells that could be used for future improvement of this platform.
Project description:The CRISPR RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease gene-targeting system has been successfully used for genome editing in a variety of organisms. Here, we report the use of dual sgRNA-guided Cas9 nuclease to generate knockout mutants of protein coding genes, noncoding genes, and repetitive sequences in C. elegans. Co-injection of C. elegans with dual sgRNAs results in the removal of the interval between two sgRNAs and the loss-of-function phenotype of targeted genes. We sought to determine how large an interval can be eliminated and found that at least a 24 kb chromosome segment can be deleted using this dual sgRNA/Cas9 strategy. The deletion of large chromosome segments facilitates mutant screening by PCR and agarose electrophoresis. Thus, the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 system in combination with dual sgRNAs provides a powerful platform with which to easily generate gene knockout mutants in C. elegans. Our data also suggest that encoding multiple sgRNA sequences into a single CRISPR array to simultaneously edit several sites within the genome may cause the off-target deletion of chromosome sequences.
Project description:The CRISPR/Cas9 system has revolutionized mammalian somatic cell genetics. Genome-wide functional screens using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout or dCas9 fusion-mediated inhibition/activation (CRISPRi/a) are powerful techniques for discovering phenotype-associated gene function. We systematically assessed the DNA sequence features that contribute to single guide RNA (sgRNA) efficiency in CRISPR-based screens. Leveraging the information from multiple designs, we derived a new sequence model for predicting sgRNA efficiency in CRISPR/Cas9 knockout experiments. Our model confirmed known features and suggested new features including a preference for cytosine at the cleavage site. The model was experimentally validated for sgRNA-mediated mutation rate and protein knockout efficiency. Tested on independent data sets, the model achieved significant results in both positive and negative selection conditions and outperformed existing models. We also found that the sequence preference for CRISPRi/a is substantially different from that for CRISPR/Cas9 knockout and propose a new model for predicting sgRNA efficiency in CRISPRi/a experiments. These results facilitate the genome-wide design of improved sgRNA for both knockout and CRISPRi/a studies.
Project description:The flySAM/CRISPRa system has recently emerged as a powerful tool for gain-of-function studies in <i>Drosophila melanogaster</i> This system includes Gal4/UAS-driven dCas9 activators and U6 promoter-controlled sgRNA. Having established dCas9 activators superior to other combinations, to further enhance the efficiency of the targeting activators we systematically optimized the parameters of the sgRNA. Interestingly, the most efficient sgRNAs were found to accumulate in the region from -150bp to -450bp upstream of the transcription start site (TSS), and the activation efficiency showed a strong positive correlation with the GC content of the sgRNA targeting sequence. In addition, the target region is dominant to the GC content, as sgRNAs targeting areas beyond -600bp from the TSS lose efficiency even when containing 75% GC. Surprisingly, when comparing the activities of sgRNAs targeting to either DNA strand, sgRNAs targeting to the non-template strand outperform those complementary to the template strand, both in cells and <i>in vivo</i> In summary, we define criteria for sgRNA design which will greatly facilitate the application of CRISPRa in gain-of-function studies.
Project description:CRISPR/Cas9 has emerged as a versatile genome-engineering tool that relies on a single guide RNA (sgRNA) and the Cas9 enzyme for genome editing. Simple, fast and economical methods to generate sgRNAs have made targeted mutagenesis routine in cultured cells, mice, zebrafish and other model systems. Pre-screening of sgRNAs for target efficacy is desirable both for successful mutagenesis and minimizing wasted animal husbandry on targets with poor activity. Here, we describe an easy, quick and cost-effective fluorescent polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method, CRISPR Somatic Tissue Activity Test (CRISPR-STAT), to determine target-specific efficiency of sgRNA. As a proof of principle, we validated our method using 28 sgRNAs with known and varied levels of germline transmission efficiency in zebrafish by analysis of their somatic activity in injected embryos. Our data revealed a strong positive correlation between the fluorescent PCR profiles of the injected embryos and the germline transmission efficiency. Furthermore, the assay was sensitive enough to evaluate multiplex gene targeting. This method is easy to implement by laboratories with access to a capillary sequencer. Although we validated the method using CRISPR/Cas9 and zebrafish, it can be applied to other model systems and other genome targeting nucleases.
Project description:Single-guide RNA (sgRNA) is one of the two key components of the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 genome-editing system. The current commonly used sgRNA structure has a shortened duplex compared with the native bacterial CRISPR RNA (crRNA)-transactivating crRNA (tracrRNA) duplex and contains a continuous sequence of thymines, which is the pause signal for RNA polymerase III and thus could potentially reduce transcription efficiency.Here, we systematically investigate the effect of these two elements on knockout efficiency and showed that modifying the sgRNA structure by extending the duplex length and mutating the fourth thymine of the continuous sequence of thymines to cytosine or guanine significantly, and sometimes dramatically, improves knockout efficiency in cells. In addition, the optimized sgRNA structure also significantly increases the efficiency of more challenging genome-editing procedures, such as gene deletion, which is important for inducing a loss of function in non-coding genes.By a systematic investigation of sgRNA structure we find that extending the duplex by approximately 5 bp combined with mutating the continuous sequence of thymines at position 4 to cytosine or guanine significantly increases gene knockout efficiency in CRISPR-Cas9-based genome editing experiments.
Project description:The CRISPR-Cas9 system has recently emerged as a versatile tool for biological and medical research. In this system, a single guide RNA (sgRNA) directs the endonuclease Cas9 to a targeted DNA sequence for site-specific manipulation. In addition to this targeting function, the sgRNA has also been shown to play a role in activating the endonuclease activity of Cas9. This dual function of the sgRNA likely underlies observations that different sgRNAs have varying on-target activities. Currently, our understanding of the relationship between sequence features of sgRNAs and their on-target cleavage efficiencies remains limited, largely due to difficulties in assessing the cleavage capacity of a large number of sgRNAs. In this study, we evaluated the cleavage activities of 218 sgRNAs using in vitro Surveyor assays. We found that nucleotides at both PAM-distal and PAM-proximal regions of the sgRNA are significantly correlated with on-target efficiency. Furthermore, we also demonstrated that the genomic context of the targeted DNA, the GC percentage, and the secondary structure of sgRNA are critical factors contributing to cleavage efficiency. In summary, our study reveals important parameters for the design of sgRNAs with high on-target efficiencies, especially in the context of high throughput applications.
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:CRISPR/Cas9 is a promising tool in prokaryotic genome engineering, but its success is limited by the widely varying on-target activity of single guide RNAs (sgRNAs). Based on the association of CRISPR/Cas9-induced DNA cleavage with cellular lethality, we systematically profiled sgRNA activity by co-expressing a genome-scale library (?70 000 sgRNAs) with Cas9 or its specificity-improved mutant in Escherichia coli. Based on this large-scale dataset, we constructed a comprehensive and high-density sgRNA activity map, which enables selecting highly active sgRNAs for any locus across the genome in this model organism. We also identified 'resistant' genomic loci with respect to CRISPR/Cas9 activity, notwithstanding the highly accessible DNA in bacterial cells. Moreover, we found that previous sgRNA activity prediction models that were trained on mammalian cell datasets were inadequate when coping with our results, highlighting the key limitations and biases of previous models. We hence developed an integrated algorithm to accurately predict highly effective sgRNAs, aiming to facilitate CRISPR/Cas9-based genome engineering, screenings and antimicrobials design in bacteria. We also isolated the important sgRNA features that contribute to DNA cleavage and characterized their key differences among wild type Cas9 and its mutant, shedding light on the biophysical mechanisms of the CRISPR/Cas9 system.
Project description:The bacterial clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 system for genome editing has greatly expanded the toolbox for mammalian genetics, enabling the rapid generation of isogenic cell lines and mice with modified alleles. Here, we describe a pooled, loss-of-function genetic screening approach suitable for both positive and negative selection that uses a genome-scale lentiviral single-guide RNA (sgRNA) library. sgRNA expression cassettes were stably integrated into the genome, which enabled a complex mutant pool to be tracked by massively parallel sequencing. We used a library containing 73,000 sgRNAs to generate knockout collections and performed screens in two human cell lines. A screen for resistance to the nucleotide analog 6-thioguanine identified all expected members of the DNA mismatch repair pathway, whereas another for the DNA topoisomerase II (TOP2A) poison etoposide identified TOP2A, as expected, and also cyclin-dependent kinase 6, CDK6. A negative selection screen for essential genes identified numerous gene sets corresponding to fundamental processes. Last, we show that sgRNA efficiency is associated with specific sequence motifs, enabling the prediction of more effective sgRNAs. Collectively, these results establish Cas9/sgRNA screens as a powerful tool for systematic genetic analysis in mammalian cells.