April 21, 2020  |  

Precise temporal regulation of Dux is important for embryo development.

Zygotic genome activation (ZGA) following fertilization is accomplished through a process termed the maternal-to-zygotic transition, during which the maternal RNAs and proteins are degraded and zygotic genome is transcriptionally activated.1 In mice, minor ZGA occurs from S phase of the zygote to G1 phase of the two-cell (2C) embryo, while major ZGA takes place during the middle-to-late 2C stage with a burst of transcription of totipotent cleavage stage-specific genes and retrotransposons.2Dux has been recently identified and considered as a master inducer that regulates the ZGA process.3–5Dux can directly bind and robustly activate 2C stage-specific ZGA transcripts and convert mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to a 2C-like state with unique features that resembles the 2C embryos.4Intriguingly, ~20% embryos with zygotic depletion of Dux unexpectedly reached morula or blastocyst stage even though defective ZGA program was detected.


April 21, 2020  |  

Large Fragment Deletions Induced by Cas9 Cleavage While Not in BEs System in Rabbit

CRISPR-Cas9 and BEs system are poised to become the gene editing tool of choice in clinical contexts, however large fragment deletion was found in Cas9-mediated mutation cells without animal level validation. By analyzing 16 gene-edited rabbit lines (including 112 rabbits) generated using SpCas9, BEs, xCas9 and xCas9-BEs with long-range PCR genotyping and long-read sequencing by PacBio platform, we show that extending thousands of bases fragment deletions in single-guide RNA/Cas9 and xCas9 system mutation rabbit, but few large deletions were found in BEs-induced mutation rabbits. We firstly validated that no large fragment deletion induced by BEs system at animal level, suggesting that BE systems can be beneficial tools for the further development of highly accurate and secure gene therapy for the clinical treatment of human genetic disorders


April 21, 2020  |  

Defining transgene insertion sites and off-target effects of homology-based gene silencing informs the use of functional genomics tools in Phytophthora infestans.

DNA transformation and homology-based transcriptional silencing are frequently used to assess gene function in Phytophthora. Since unplanned side-effects of these tools are not well-characterized, we used P. infestans to study plasmid integration sites and whether knockdowns caused by homology-dependent silencing spreads to other genes. Insertions occurred both in gene-dense and gene-sparse regions but disproportionately near the 5′ ends of genes, which disrupted native coding sequences. Microhomology at the recombination site between plasmid and chromosome was common. Studies of transformants silenced for twelve different gene targets indicated that neighbors within 500-nt were often co-silenced, regardless of whether hairpin or sense constructs were employed and the direction of transcription of the target. However, cis-spreading of silencing did not occur in all transformants obtained with the same plasmid. Genome-wide studies indicated that unlinked genes with partial complementarity with the silencing-inducing transgene were not usually down-regulated. We learned that hairpin or sense transgenes were not co-silenced with the target in all transformants, which informs how screens for silencing should be performed. We conclude that transformation and gene silencing can be reliable tools for functional genomics in Phytophthora but must be used carefully, especially by testing for the spread of silencing to genes flanking the target.


April 21, 2020  |  

Collateral damage and CRISPR genome editing.

The simplicity and the versatility of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated protein (CRISPR-Cas) systems have enabled the genetic modification of virtually every organism and offer immense therapeutic potential for the treatment of human disease. Although these systems may function efficiently within eukaryotic cells, there remain concerns about the accuracy of Cas endonuclease effectors and their use for precise gene editing. Recently, two independent reports investigating the editing accuracy of the CRISPR-Cas9 system were published by separate groups at the Wellcome Sanger Institute; our study-Iyer and colleagues [1]-defined the landscape of off-target mutations, whereas the other by Kosicki and colleagues [2] detailed the existence of on-target, potentially deleterious deletions. Although both studies found evidence of large on-target CRISPR-induced deletions, they reached seemingly very different conclusions.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-wide de novo L1 Retrotransposition Connects Endonuclease Activity with Replication.

L1 retrotransposon-derived sequences comprise approximately 17% of the human genome. Darwinian selective pressures alter L1 genomic distributions during evolution, confounding the ability to determine initial L1 integration preferences. Here, we generated high-confidence datasets of greater than 88,000 engineered L1 insertions in human cell lines that act as proxies for cells that accommodate retrotransposition in vivo. Comparing these insertions to a null model, in which L1 endonuclease activity is the sole determinant dictating L1 integration preferences, demonstrated that L1 insertions are not significantly enriched in genes, transcribed regions, or open chromatin. By comparison, we provide compelling evidence that the L1 endonuclease disproportionately cleaves predominant lagging strand DNA replication templates, while lagging strand 3′-hydroxyl groups may prime endonuclease-independent L1 retrotransposition in a Fanconi anemia cell line. Thus, acquisition of an endonuclease domain, in conjunction with the ability to integrate into replicating DNA, allowed L1 to become an autonomous, interspersed retrotransposon.Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Precise therapeutic gene correction by a simple nuclease-induced double-stranded break.

Current programmable nuclease-based methods (for example, CRISPR-Cas9) for the precise correction of a disease-causing genetic mutation harness the homology-directed repair pathway. However, this repair process requires the co-delivery of an exogenous DNA donor to recode the sequence and can be inefficient in many cell types. Here we show that disease-causing frameshift mutations that result from microduplications can be efficiently reverted to the wild-type sequence simply by generating a DNA double-stranded break near the centre of the duplication. We demonstrate this in patient-derived cell lines for two diseases: limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2G (LGMD2G)1 and Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome type 1 (HPS1)2. Clonal analysis of inducible pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from the LGMD2G cell line, which contains a mutation in TCAP, treated with the Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) nuclease revealed that about 80% contained at least one wild-type TCAP allele; this correction also restored TCAP expression in LGMD2G iPS cell-derived myotubes. SpCas9 also efficiently corrected the genotype of an HPS1 patient-derived B-lymphoblastoid cell line. Inhibition of polyADP-ribose polymerase 1 (PARP-1) suppressed the nuclease-mediated collapse of the microduplication to the wild-type sequence, confirming that precise correction is mediated by the microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) pathway. Analysis of editing by SpCas9 and Lachnospiraceae bacterium ND2006 Cas12a (LbCas12a) at non-pathogenic 4-36-base-pair microduplications within the genome indicates that the correction strategy is broadly applicable to a wide range of microduplication lengths and can be initiated by a variety of nucleases. The simplicity, reliability and efficacy of this MMEJ-based therapeutic strategy should permit the development of nuclease-based gene correction therapies for a variety of diseases that are associated with microduplications.


April 21, 2020  |  

Different knockout genotypes of OsIAA23 in rice using CRISPR/Cas9 generating different phenotypes.

We have isolated several Osiaa23 rice mutants with different knockout genotypes, resulting in different phenotypes, which suggested that different genetic backgrounds or mutation types influence gene function. The Auxin/Indole-3-Acetic Acid (Aux/IAA) gene family performs critical roles in auxin signal transduction in plants. In rice, the gene OsIAA23 (Os06t0597000) is known to affect development of roots and shoots, but previous knockouts in OsIAA23 have been sterile and difficult for research continuously. Here, we isolate new Osiaa23 mutants using the CRISPR/Cas9 system in japonica (Wuyunjing24) and indica (Kasalath) rice, with extensive genome re-sequencing to confirm the absence of off-target effects. In Kasalath, mutants with a 13-amino acid deletion showed profoundly greater dwarfing, lateral root developmental disorder, and fertility deficiency, relative to mutants with a single amino acid deletion, demonstrating that those 13 amino acids in Kasalath are essential to gene function. In Wuyunjing24, we predicted that mutants with a single base-pair frameshift insertion would experience premature termination and strong phenotypic defects, but instead these lines exhibited negligible phenotypic difference and normal fertility. Through RNA-seq, we show here that new mosaic transcripts of OsIAA23 were produced de novo, which circumvented the premature termination and thereby preserved the wild-type phenotype. This finding is a notable demonstration in plants that mutants can mask loss of function CRISPR/Cas9 editing of the target gene through de novo changes in alternative splicing.


April 21, 2020  |  

Smashing Barriers in Biolistic Plant Transformation.

A foundation of modern biotechnology is the ability to stably introduce foreign DNA into an organism. The two most widely used methods, Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and biolistics, are both steeped in a rich history of creative exploration into the molecular unknown. Agrobacterium research accelerated in the early 1970s, particularly with the discovery of the large Ti (tumor-inducing) plasmid of Agrobacterium that contained a region of transfer DNA (T-DNA). Culturing plant calli in autoclaved jelly jars, and long before the advent of PCR, Southern blots were first used to show that T-DNA fragments could stably integrate into the nuclear genome (Chilton et al., 1980; Chilton, 2001). On the other hand, the first manufactured biolistic “gene gun” was an actual gun; it shot a blank .22 caliber cartridge loaded with DNA-coated tungsten shards to integrate foreign DNA into the nuclear genome. While it has long been known that biolistic transformation violently integrates DNA in a largely random, unpredictable and imprecise way, the cellular mechanisms of damage repair and successful integration remain a complicated issue to disentangle.


April 21, 2020  |  

Development of CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing and beyond

The development of clustered regularly interspaced short-palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems for genome editing has transformed the way life science research is conducted and holds enormous potential for the treatment of disease as well as for many aspects of biotech- nology. Here, I provide a personal perspective on the development of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing within the broader context of the field and discuss our work to discover novel Cas effectors and develop them into additional molecular tools. The initial demonstra- tion of Cas9-mediated genome editing launched the development of many other technologies, enabled new lines of biological inquiry, and motivated a deeper examination of natural CRISPR-Cas systems, including the discovery of new types of CRISPR-Cas systems. These new discoveries in turn spurred further technological developments. I review these exciting discoveries and technologies as well as provide an overview of the broad array of applications of these technologies in basic research and in the improvement of human health. It is clear that we are only just beginning to unravel the potential within microbial diversity, and it is quite likely that we will continue to discover other exciting phenomena, some of which it may be possible to repurpose as molecular technologies. The transformation of mysterious natural phenomena to powerful tools, however, takes a collective effort to discover, characterize, and engineer them, and it has been a privilege to join the numerous researchers who have contributed to this transformation of CRISPR-Cas systems.


April 21, 2020  |  

Whole Genome Sequencing of the Mutamouse Model Reveals Strain- and Colony-Level Variation, and Genomic Features of the Transgene Integration Site.

The MutaMouse transgenic rodent model is widely used for assessing in vivo mutagenicity. Here, we report the characterization of MutaMouse’s whole genome sequence and its genetic variants compared to the C57BL/6 reference genome. High coverage (>50X) next-generation sequencing (NGS) of whole genomes from multiple MutaMouse animals from the Health Canada (HC) colony showed ~5 million SNVs per genome, ~20% of which are putatively novel. Sequencing of two animals from a geographically separated colony at Covance indicated that, over the course of 23 years, each colony accumulated 47,847 (HC) and 17,677 (Covance) non-parental homozygous single nucleotide variants. We found no novel nonsense or missense mutations that impair the MutaMouse response to genotoxic agents. Pairing sequencing data with array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) improved the accuracy and resolution of copy number variants (CNVs) calls and identified 300 genomic regions with CNVs. We also used long-read sequence technology (PacBio) to show that the transgene integration site involved a large deletion event with multiple inversions and rearrangements near a retrotransposon. The MutaMouse genome gives important genetic context to studies using this model, offers insight on the mechanisms of structural variant formation, and contributes a framework to analyze aCGH results alongside NGS data.


April 21, 2020  |  

Programmable mutually exclusive alternative splicing for generating RNA and protein diversity.

Alternative splicing performs a central role in expanding genomic coding capacity and proteomic diversity. However, programming of splicing patterns in engineered biological systems remains underused. Synthetic approaches thus far have predominantly focused on controlling expression of a single protein through alternative splicing. Here, we describe a modular and extensible platform for regulating four programmable exons that undergo a mutually exclusive alternative splicing event to generate multiple functionally-distinct proteins. We present an intron framework that enforces the mutual exclusivity of two internal exons and demonstrate a graded series of consensus sequence elements of varying strengths that set the ratio of two mutually exclusive isoforms. We apply this framework to program the DNA-binding domains of modular transcription factors to differentially control downstream gene activation. This splicing platform advances an approach for generating diverse isoforms and can ultimately be applied to program modular proteins and increase coding capacity of synthetic biological systems.


April 21, 2020  |  

Linking CRISPR-Cas9 interference in cassava to the evolution of editing-resistant geminiviruses.

Geminiviruses cause damaging diseases in several important crop species. However, limited progress has been made in developing crop varieties resistant to these highly diverse DNA viruses. Recently, the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system has been transferred to plants to target and confer immunity to geminiviruses. In this study, we use CRISPR-Cas9 interference in the staple food crop cassava with the aim of engineering resistance to African cassava mosaic virus, a member of a widespread and important family (Geminiviridae) of plant-pathogenic DNA viruses.Our results show that the CRISPR system fails to confer effective resistance to the virus during glasshouse inoculations. Further, we find that between 33 and 48% of edited virus genomes evolve a conserved single-nucleotide mutation that confers resistance to CRISPR-Cas9 cleavage. We also find that in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana the replication of the novel, mutant virus is dependent on the presence of the wild-type virus.Our study highlights the risks associated with CRISPR-Cas9 virus immunity in eukaryotes given that the mutagenic nature of the system generates viral escapes in a short time period. Our in-depth analysis of virus populations also represents a template for future studies analyzing virus escape from anti-viral CRISPR transgenics. This is especially important for informing regulation of such actively mutagenic applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in agriculture.


October 23, 2019  |  

Altering tropism of rAAV by directed evolution.

Directed evolution represents an attractive approach to derive AAV capsid variants capable of selectively infect specific tissue or cell targets. It involves the generation of an initial library of high complexity followed by cycles of selection during which the library is progressively enriched for target-specific variants. Each selection cycle consists of the following: reconstitution of complete AAV genomes within plasmid molecules; production of virions for which each particular capsid variant is matched with the particular capsid gene encoding it; recovery of capsid gene sequences from target tissue after systemic administration. Prevalent variants are then analyzed and evaluated.


October 23, 2019  |  

SAPTA: a new design tool for improving TALE nuclease activity.

Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) have become a powerful tool for genome editing due to the simple code linking the amino acid sequences of their DNA-binding domains to TALEN nucleotide targets. While the initial TALEN-design guidelines are very useful, user-friendly tools defining optimal TALEN designs for robust genome editing need to be developed. Here we evaluated existing guidelines and developed new design guidelines for TALENs based on 205 TALENs tested, and established the scoring algorithm for predicting TALEN activity (SAPTA) as a new online design tool. For any input gene of interest, SAPTA gives a ranked list of potential TALEN target sites, facilitating the selection of optimal TALEN pairs based on predicted activity. SAPTA-based TALEN designs increased the average intracellular TALEN monomer activity by >3-fold, and resulted in an average endogenous gene-modification frequency of 39% for TALENs containing the repeat variable di-residue NK that favors specificity rather than activity. It is expected that SAPTA will become a useful and flexible tool for designing highly active TALENs for genome-editing applications. SAPTA can be accessed via the website at http://baolab.bme.gatech.edu/Research/BioinformaticTools/TAL_targeter.html.


October 23, 2019  |  

TALENs facilitate targeted genome editing in human cells with high specificity and low cytotoxicity.

Designer nucleases have been successfully employed to modify the genomes of various model organisms and human cell types. While the specificity of zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) and RNA-guided endonucleases has been assessed to some extent, little data are available for transcription activator-like effector-based nucleases (TALENs). Here, we have engineered TALEN pairs targeting three human loci (CCR5, AAVS1 and IL2RG) and performed a detailed analysis of their activity, toxicity and specificity. The TALENs showed comparable activity to benchmark ZFNs, with allelic gene disruption frequencies of 15-30% in human cells. Notably, TALEN expression was overall marked by a low cytotoxicity and the absence of cell cycle aberrations. Bioinformatics-based analysis of designer nuclease specificity confirmed partly substantial off-target activity of ZFNs targeting CCR5 and AAVS1 at six known and five novel sites, respectively. In contrast, only marginal off-target cleavage activity was detected at four out of 49 predicted off-target sites for CCR5- and AAVS1-specific TALENs. The rational design of a CCR5-specific TALEN pair decreased off-target activity at the closely related CCR2 locus considerably, consistent with fewer genomic rearrangements between the two loci. In conclusion, our results link nuclease-associated toxicity to off-target cleavage activity and corroborate TALENs as a highly specific platform for future clinical translation. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


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