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.


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  |  

Controlled delivery of ß-globin-targeting TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9 into mammalian cells for genome editing using microinjection.

Tal-effector nucleases (TALEN) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) with CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins are genome editing tools with unprecedented potential. However, the ability to deliver optimal amounts of these nucleases into mammalian cells with minimal toxicity poses a major challenge. Common delivery approaches are transfection- and viral-based methods; each associated with significant drawbacks. An alternative method for directly delivering genome-editing reagents into single living cells with high efficiency and controlled volume is microinjection. Here, we characterize a glass microcapillary-based injection system and demonstrate controlled co-injection of TALENs or CRISPR/Cas9 together with donor template into single K562 cells for targeting the human ß-globin gene. We quantified nuclease induced insertions and deletions (indels) and found that, with ß-globin-targeting TALENs, similar levels of on- and off-target activity in cells could be achieved by microinjection compared with nucleofection. Furthermore, we observed 11% and 2% homology directed repair in single K562 cells co-injected with a donor template along with CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs respectively. These results demonstrate that a high level of targeted gene modification can be achieved in human cells using glass-needle microinjection of genome editing reagents.


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  |  

CRISPR/Cas9-generated p47(phox)-deficient cell line for Chronic Granulomatous Disease gene therapy vector development.

Development of gene therapy vectors requires cellular models reflecting the genetic background of a disease thus allowing for robust preclinical vector testing. For human p47(phox)-deficient chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) vector testing we generated a cellular model using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 to introduce a GT-dinucleotide deletion (?GT) mutation in p47(phox) encoding NCF1 gene in the human acute myeloid leukemia PLB-985 cell line. CGD is a group of hereditary immunodeficiencies characterized by impaired respiratory burst activity in phagocytes due to a defective phagocytic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. In Western countries autosomal-recessive p47(phox)-subunit deficiency represents the second largest CGD patient cohort with unique genetics, as the vast majority of p47(phox) CGD patients carries ?GT deletion in exon two of the NCF1 gene. The established PLB-985 NCF1 ?GT cell line reflects the most frequent form of p47(phox)-deficient CGD genetically and functionally. It can be differentiated to granulocytes efficiently, what creates an attractive alternative to currently used iPSC models for rapid testing of novel gene therapy approaches.


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  |  

CRISPR/Cas9-mediated scanning for regulatory elements required for HPRT1 expression via thousands of large, programmed genomic deletions.

The extent to which non-coding mutations contribute to Mendelian disease is a major unknown in human genetics. Relatedly, the vast majority of candidate regulatory elements have yet to be functionally validated. Here, we describe a CRISPR-based system that uses pairs of guide RNAs (gRNAs) to program thousands of kilobase-scale deletions that deeply scan across a targeted region in a tiling fashion (“ScanDel”). We applied ScanDel to HPRT1, the housekeeping gene underlying Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, an X-linked recessive disorder. Altogether, we programmed 4,342 overlapping 1 and 2 kb deletions that tiled 206 kb centered on HPRT1 (including 87 kb upstream and 79 kb downstream) with median 27-fold redundancy per base. We functionally assayed programmed deletions in parallel by selecting for loss of HPRT function with 6-thioguanine. As expected, sequencing gRNA pairs before and after selection confirmed that all HPRT1 exons are needed. However, HPRT1 function was robust to deletion of any intergenic or deeply intronic non-coding region, indicating that proximal regulatory sequences are sufficient for HPRT1 expression. Although our screen did identify the disruption of exon-proximal non-coding sequences (e.g., the promoter) as functionally consequential, long-read sequencing revealed that this signal was driven by rare, imprecise deletions that extended into exons. Our results suggest that no singular distal regulatory element is required for HPRT1 expression and that distal mutations are unlikely to contribute substantially to Lesch-Nyhan syndrome burden. Further application of ScanDel could shed light on the role of regulatory mutations in disease at other loci while also facilitating a deeper understanding of endogenous gene regulation. Copyright © 2017 American Society of Human Genetics. All rights reserved.


October 23, 2019  |  

Structural determination of the broadly reactive anti-IGHV1-69 anti-idiotypic antibody G6 and its idiotope.

The heavy chain IGHV1-69 germline gene exhibits a high level of polymorphism and shows biased use in protective antibody (Ab) responses to infections and vaccines. It is also highly expressed in several B cell malignancies and autoimmune diseases. G6 is an anti-idiotypic monoclonal Ab that selectively binds to IGHV1-69 heavy chain germline gene 51p1 alleles that have been implicated in these Ab responses and disease processes. Here, we determine the co-crystal structure of humanized G6 (hG6.3) in complex with anti-influenza hemagglutinin stem-directed broadly neutralizing Ab D80. The core of the hG6.3 idiotope is a continuous string of CDR-H2 residues starting with M53 and ending with N58. G6 binding studies demonstrate the remarkable breadth of binding to 51p1 IGHV1-69 Abs with diverse CDR-H3, light chain, and antigen binding specificities. These studies detail the broad expression of the G6 cross-reactive idiotype (CRI) that further define its potential role in precision medicine. Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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  |  

Transmission, evolution, and endogenization: Lessons learned from recent retroviral invasions.

Viruses of the subfamily Orthoretrovirinaeare defined by the ability to reverse transcribe an RNA genome into DNA that integrates into the host cell genome during the intracellular virus life cycle. Exogenous retroviruses (XRVs) are horizontally transmitted between host individuals, with disease outcome depending on interactions between the retrovirus and the host organism. When retroviruses infect germ line cells of the host, they may become endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are permanent elements in the host germ line that are subject to vertical transmission. These ERVs sometimes remain infectious and can themselves give rise to XRVs. This review integrates recent developments in the phylogenetic classification of retroviruses and the identification of retroviral receptors to elucidate the origins and evolution of XRVs and ERVs. We consider whether ERVs may recurrently pressure XRVs to shift receptor usage to sidestep ERV interference. We discuss how related retroviruses undergo alternative fates in different host lineages after endogenization, with koala retrovirus (KoRV) receiving notable interest as a recent invader of its host germ line. KoRV is heritable but also infectious, which provides insights into the early stages of germ line invasions as well as XRV generation from ERVs. The relationship of KoRV to primate and other retroviruses is placed in the context of host biogeography and the potential role of bats and rodents as vectors for interspecies viral transmission. Combining studies of extant XRVs and “fossil” endogenous retroviruses in koalas and other Australasian species has broadened our understanding of the evolution of retroviruses and host-retrovirus interactions. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


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