June 1, 2021  |  

High-throughput SMRT Sequencing of clinically relevant targets

Targeted sequencing with Sanger as well as short read based high throughput sequencing methods is standard practice in clinical genetic testing. However, many applications beyond SNP detection have remained somewhat obstructed due to technological challenges. With the advent of long reads and high consensus accuracy, SMRT Sequencing overcomes many of the technical hurdles faced by Sanger and NGS approaches, opening a broad range of untapped clinical sequencing opportunities. Flexible multiplexing options, highly adaptable sample preparation method and newly improved two well-developed analysis methods that generate highly-accurate sequencing results, make SMRT Sequencing an adept method for clinical grade targeted sequencing. The Circular Consensus Sequencing (CCS) analysis pipeline produces QV 30 data from each single intra-molecular multi-pass polymerase read, making it a reliable solution for detecting minor variant alleles with frequencies as low as 1 %. Long Amplicon Analysis (LAA) makes use of insert spanning full-length subreads originating from multiple individual copies of the target to generate highly accurate and phased consensus sequences (>QV50), offering a unique advantage for imputation free allele segregation and haplotype phasing. Here we present workflows and results for a range of SMRT Sequencing clinical applications. Specifically, we illustrate how the flexible multiplexing options, simple sample preparation methods and new developments in data analysis tools offered by PacBio in support of Sequel System 5.1 can come together in a variety of experimental designs to enable applications as diverse as high throughput HLA typing, mitochondrial DNA sequencing and viral vector integrity profiling of recombinant adeno-associated viral genomes (rAAV).

April 21, 2020  |  

5’UTR-mediated regulation of Ataxin-1 expression.

Expression of mutant Ataxin-1 with an abnormally expanded polyglutamine domain is necessary for the onset and progression of spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1). Understanding how Ataxin-1 expression is regulated in the human brain could inspire novel molecular therapies for this fatal, dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease. Previous studies have shown that the ATXN1 3’UTR plays a key role in regulating the Ataxin-1 cellular pool via diverse post-transcriptional mechanisms. Here we show that elements within the ATXN1 5’UTR also participate in the regulation of Ataxin-1 expression. PCR and PacBio sequencing analysis of cDNA obtained from control and SCA1 human brain samples revealed the presence of three major, alternatively spliced ATXN1 5’UTR variants. In cell-based assays, fusion of these variants upstream of an EGFP reporter construct revealed significant and differential impacts on total EGFP protein output, uncovering a type of genetic rheostat-like function of the ATXN1 5’UTR. We identified ribosomal scanning of upstream AUG codons and increased transcript instability as potential mechanisms of regulation. Importantly, transcript-based analyses revealed significant differences in the expression pattern of ATXN1 5’UTR variants between control and SCA1 cerebellum. Together, the data presented here shed light into a previously unknown role for the ATXN1 5’UTR in the regulation of Ataxin-1 and provide new opportunities for the development of SCA1 therapeutics. Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Inc.

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.

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  |  

AAV-mediated delivery of zinc finger nucleases targeting hepatitis B virus inhibits active replication.

Despite an existing effective vaccine, hepatitis B virus (HBV) remains a major public health concern. There are effective suppressive therapies for HBV, but they remain expensive and inaccessible to many, and not all patients respond well. Furthermore, HBV can persist as genomic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) that remains in hepatocytes even during otherwise effective therapy and facilitates rebound in patients after treatment has stopped. Therefore, the need for an effective treatment that targets active and persistent HBV infections remains. As a novel approach to treat HBV, we have targeted the HBV genome for disruption to prevent viral reactivation and replication. We generated 3 zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) that target sequences within the HBV polymerase, core and X genes. Upon the formation of ZFN-induced DNA double strand breaks (DSB), imprecise repair by non-homologous end joining leads to mutations that inactivate HBV genes. We delivered HBV-specific ZFNs using self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors and tested their anti-HBV activity in HepAD38 cells. HBV-ZFNs efficiently disrupted HBV target sites by inducing site-specific mutations. Cytotoxicity was seen with one of the ZFNs. scAAV-mediated delivery of a ZFN targeting HBV polymerase resulted in complete inhibition of HBV DNA replication and production of infectious HBV virions in HepAD38 cells. This effect was sustained for at least 2 weeks following only a single treatment. Furthermore, high specificity was observed for all ZFNs, as negligible off-target cleavage was seen via high-throughput sequencing of 7 closely matched potential off-target sites. These results show that HBV-targeted ZFNs can efficiently inhibit active HBV replication and suppress the cellular template for HBV persistence, making them promising candidates for eradication therapy.

October 23, 2019  |  

Codon swapping of zinc finger nucleases confers expression in primary cells and in vivo from a single lentiviral vector.

Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are promising tools for genome editing for biotechnological as well as therapeutic purposes. Delivery remains a major issue impeding targeted genome modification. Lentiviral vectors are highly efficient for delivering transgenes into cell lines, primary cells and into organs, such as the liver. However, the reverse transcription of lentiviral vectors leads to recombination of homologous sequences, as found between and within ZFN monomers.We used a codon swapping strategy to both drastically disrupt sequence identity between ZFN monomers and to reduce sequence repeats within a monomer sequence. We constructed lentiviral vectors encoding codon-swapped ZFNs or unmodified ZFNs from a single mRNA transcript. Cell lines, primary hepatocytes and newborn rats were used to evaluate the efficacy of integrative-competent (ICLV) and integrative-deficient (IDLV) lentiviral vectors to deliver ZFNs into target cells.We reduced total identity between ZFN monomers from 90.9% to 61.4% and showed that a single ICLV allowed efficient expression of functional ZFNs targeting the rat UGT1A1 gene after codon-swapping, leading to much higher ZFN activity in cell lines (up to 7-fold increase compared to unmodified ZFNs and 60% activity in C6 cells), as compared to plasmid transfection or a single ICLV encoding unmodified ZFN monomers. Off-target analysis located several active sites for the 5-finger UGT1A1-ZFNs. Furthermore, we reported for the first time successful ZFN-induced targeted DNA double-strand breaks in primary cells (hepatocytes) and in vivo (liver) after delivery of a single IDLV encoding two ZFNs.These results demonstrate that a codon-swapping approach allowed a single lentiviral vector to efficiently express ZFNs and should stimulate the use of this viral platform for ZFN-mediated genome editing of primary cells, for both ex vivo or in vivo applications.

October 23, 2019  |  

Vector design Tour de Force: integrating combinatorial and rational approaches to derive novel adeno-associated virus variants.

Methodologies to improve existing adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapy include either rational approaches or directed evolution to derive capsid variants characterized by superior transduction efficiencies in targeted tissues. Here, we integrated both approaches in one unified design strategy of “virtual family shuffling” to derive a combinatorial capsid library whereby only variable regions on the surface of the capsid are modified. Individual sublibraries were first assembled in order to preselect compatible amino acid residues within restricted surface-exposed regions to minimize the generation of dead-end variants. Subsequently, the successful families were interbred to derive a combined library of ~8?×?10(5) complexity. Next-generation sequencing of the packaged viral DNA revealed capsid surface areas susceptible to directed evolution, thus providing guidance for future designs. We demonstrated the utility of the library by deriving an AAV2-based vector characterized by a 20-fold higher transduction efficiency in murine liver, now equivalent to that of AAV8.

October 23, 2019  |  

Creating and evaluating accurate CRISPR-Cas9 scalpels for genomic surgery.

The simplicity of site-specific genome targeting by type II clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas9 nucleases, along with their robust activity profile, has changed the landscape of genome editing. These favorable properties have made the CRISPR-Cas9 system the technology of choice for sequence-specific modifications in vertebrate systems. For many applications, whether the focus is on basic science investigations or therapeutic efficacy, activity and precision are important considerations when one is choosing a nuclease platform, target site and delivery method. Here we review recent methods for increasing the activity and accuracy of Cas9 and assessing the extent of off-target cleavage events.

October 23, 2019  |  

Accurate identification and quantification of DNA species by next-generation sequencing in adeno-associated viral vectors produced in insect cells.

Recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vectors have proven excellent tools for the treatment of many genetic diseases and other complex diseases. However, the illegitimate encapsidation of DNA contaminants within viral particles constitutes a major safety concern for rAAV-based therapies. Moreover, the development of rAAV vectors for early-phase clinical trials has revealed the limited accuracy of the analytical tools used to characterize these new and complex drugs. Although most published data concerning residual DNA in rAAV preparations have been generated by quantitative PCR, we have developed a novel single-strand virus sequencing (SSV-Seq) method for quantification of DNA contaminants in AAV vectors produced in mammalian cells by next-generation sequencing (NGS). Here, we describe the adaptation of SSV-Seq for the accurate identification and quantification of DNA species in rAAV stocks produced in insect cells. We found that baculoviral DNA was the most abundant contaminant, representing less than 2.1% of NGS reads regardless of serotype (2, 8, or rh10). Sf9 producer cell DNA was detected at low frequency (=0.03%) in rAAV lots. Advanced computational analyses revealed that (1) baculoviral sequences close to the inverted terminal repeats preferentially underwent illegitimate encapsidation, and (2) single-nucleotide variants were absent from the rAAV genome. The high-throughput sequencing protocol described here enables effective DNA quality control of rAAV vectors produced in insect cells, and is adapted to conform with regulatory agency safety requirements.

October 23, 2019  |  

Short DNA hairpins compromise recombinant adeno-associated virus genome homogeneity.

Short hairpin (sh)RNAs delivered by recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) are valuable tools to study gene function in vivo and a promising gene therapy platform. Our data show that incorporation of shRNA transgenes into rAAV constructs reduces vector yield and produces a population of truncated and defective genomes. We demonstrate that sequences with hairpins or hairpin-like structures drive the generation of truncated AAV genomes through a polymerase redirection mechanism during viral genome replication. Our findings reveal the importance of genomic secondary structure when optimizing viral vector designs. We also discovered that shDNAs could be adapted to act as surrogate mutant inverted terminal repeats (mTRs), sequences that were previously thought to be required for functional self-complementary AAV vectors. The use of shDNAs as artificial mTRs opens the door to engineering a new generation of AAV vectors with improved potency, genetic stability, and safety for both preclinical studies and human gene therapy. Published by Elsevier Inc.

October 23, 2019  |  

Streamlined ex vivo and in vivo genome editing in mouse embryos using recombinant adeno-associated viruses.

Recent advances using CRISPR-Cas9 approaches have dramatically enhanced the ease for genetic manipulation in rodents. Notwithstanding, the methods to deliver nucleic acids into pre-implantation embryos have hardly changed since the original description of mouse transgenesis more than 30 years ago. Here we report a novel strategy to generate genetically modified mice by transduction of CRISPR-Cas9 components into pre-implantation mouse embryos via recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs). Using this approach, we efficiently generated a variety of targeted mutations in explanted embryos, including indel events produced by non-homologous end joining and tailored mutations using homology-directed repair. We also achieved gene modification in vivo by direct delivery of rAAV particles into the oviduct of pregnant females. Our approach greatly simplifies the generation of genetically modified mice and, more importantly, opens the door for streamlined gene editing in other mammalian species.

October 23, 2019  |  

Molecular barcoding of viral vectors enables mapping and optimization of mRNA trans-splicing.

Genome editing has proven to be highly potent in the generation of functional gene knockouts in dividing cells. In the CNS however, efficient technologies to repair sequences are yet to materialize. Reprogramming on the mRNA level is an attractive alternative as it provides means to perform in situ editing of coding sequences without nuclease dependency. Furthermore, de novo sequences can be inserted without the requirement of homologous recombination. Such reprogramming would enable efficient editing in quiescent cells (e.g., neurons) with an attractive safety profile for translational therapies. In this study, we applied a novel molecular-barcoded screening assay to investigate RNA trans-splicing in mammalian neurons. Through three alternative screening systems in cell culture and in vivo, we demonstrate that factors determining trans-splicing are reproducible regardless of the screening system. With this screening, we have located the most permissive trans-splicing sequences targeting an intron in the Synapsin I gene. Using viral vectors, we were able to splice full-length fluorophores into the mRNA while retaining very low off-target expression. Furthermore, this approach also showed evidence of functionality in the mouse striatum. However, in its current form, the trans-splicing events are stochastic and the overall activity lower than would be required for therapies targeting loss-of-function mutations. Nevertheless, the herein described barcode-based screening assay provides a unique possibility to screen and map large libraries in single animals or cell assays with very high precision.© 2018 Davidsson et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.

October 23, 2019  |  

Bioengineered viral platform for intramuscular passive vaccine delivery to human skeletal muscle.

Skeletal muscle is ideal for passive vaccine administration as it is easily accessible by intramuscular injection. Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors are in consideration for passive vaccination clinical trials for HIV and influenza. However, greater human skeletal muscle transduction is needed for therapeutic efficacy than is possible with existing serotypes. To bioengineer capsids with therapeutic levels of transduction, we utilized a directed evolution approach to screen libraries of shuffled AAV capsids in pools of surgically resected human skeletal muscle cells from five patients. Six rounds of evolution were performed in various muscle cell types, and evolved variants were validated against existing muscle-tropic serotypes rAAV1, 6, and 8. We found that evolved variants NP22 and NP66 had significantly increased primary human and rhesus skeletal muscle fiber transduction from surgical explants ex vivo and in various primary and immortalized myogenic lines in vitro. Importantly, we demonstrated reduced seroreactivity compared to existing serotypes against normal human serum from 50 adult donors. These capsids represent powerful tools for human skeletal muscle expression and secretion of antibodies from passive vaccines.

October 23, 2019  |  

Adeno-associated virus type 2 wild-type and vector-mediated genomic integration profiles of human diploid fibroblasts analyzed by third-generation PacBio DNA sequencing.

Genome-wide analysis of adeno-associated virus (AAV) type 2 integration in HeLa cells has shown that wild-type AAV integrates at numerous genomic sites, including AAVS1 on chromosome 19q13.42. Multiple GAGY/C repeats, resembling consensus AAV Rep-binding sites are preferred, whereas rep-deficient AAV vectors (rAAV) regularly show a random integration profile. This study is the first study to analyze wild-type AAV integration in diploid human fibroblasts. Applying high-throughput third-generation PacBio-based DNA sequencing, integration profiles of wild-type AAV and rAAV are compared side by side. Bioinformatic analysis reveals that both wild-type AAV and rAAV prefer open chromatin regions. Although genomic features of AAV integration largely reproduce previous findings, the pattern of integration hot spots differs from that described in HeLa cells before. DNase-Seq data for human fibroblasts and for HeLa cells reveal variant chromatin accessibility at preferred AAV integration hot spots that correlates with variant hot spot preferences. DNase-Seq patterns of these sites in human tissues, including liver, muscle, heart, brain, skin, and embryonic stem cells further underline variant chromatin accessibility. In summary, AAV integration is dependent on cell-type-specific, variant chromatin accessibility leading to random integration profiles for rAAV, whereas wild-type AAV integration sites cluster near GAGY/C repeats.Adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV) is assumed to establish latency by chromosomal integration of its DNA. This is the first genome-wide analysis of wild-type AAV2 integration in diploid human cells and the first to compare wild-type to recombinant AAV vector integration side by side under identical experimental conditions. Major determinants of wild-type AAV integration represent open chromatin regions with accessible consensus AAV Rep-binding sites. The variant chromatin accessibility of different human tissues or cell types will have impact on vector targeting to be considered during gene therapy. Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

October 23, 2019  |  

Targeted gene addition in human CD34(+) hematopoietic cells for correction of X-linked chronic granulomatous disease.

Gene therapy with genetically modified human CD34(+) hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) may be safer using targeted integration (TI) of transgenes into a genomic ‘safe harbor’ site rather than random viral integration. We demonstrate that temporally optimized delivery of zinc finger nuclease mRNA via electroporation and adeno-associated virus (AAV) 6 delivery of donor constructs in human HSPCs approaches clinically relevant levels of TI into the AAVS1 safe harbor locus. Up to 58% Venus(+) HSPCs with 6-16% human cell marking were observed following engraftment into mice. In HSPCs from patients with X-linked chronic granulomatous disease (X-CGD), caused by mutations in the gp91phox subunit of the NADPH oxidase, TI of a gp91phox transgene into AAVS1 resulted in ~15% gp91phox expression and increased NADPH oxidase activity in ex vivo-derived neutrophils. In mice transplanted with corrected HSPCs, 4-11% of human cells in the bone marrow expressed gp91phox. This method for TI into AAVS1 may be broadly applicable to correction of other monogenic diseases.

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