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  |  

Efficient CRISPR/Cas9-mediated editing of trinucleotide repeat expansion in myotonic dystrophy patient-derived iPS and myogenic cells.

CRISPR/Cas9 is an attractive platform to potentially correct dominant genetic diseases by gene editing with unprecedented precision. In the current proof-of-principle study, we explored the use of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene-editing in myotonic dystrophy type-1 (DM1), an autosomal-dominant muscle disorder, by excising the CTG-repeat expansion in the 3′-untranslated-region (UTR) of the human myotonic dystrophy protein kinase (DMPK) gene in DM1 patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (DM1-iPSC), DM1-iPSC-derived myogenic cells and DM1 patient-specific myoblasts. To eliminate the pathogenic gain-of-function mutant DMPK transcript, we designed a dual guide RNA based strategy that excises the CTG-repeat expansion with high efficiency, as confirmed by Southern blot and single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing. Correction efficiencies up to 90% could be attained in DM1-iPSC as confirmed at the clonal level, following ribonucleoprotein (RNP) transfection of CRISPR/Cas9 components without the need for selective enrichment. Expanded CTG repeat excision resulted in the disappearance of ribonuclear foci, a quintessential cellular phenotype of DM1, in the corrected DM1-iPSC, DM1-iPSC-derived myogenic cells and DM1 myoblasts. Consequently, the normal intracellular localization of the muscleblind-like splicing regulator 1 (MBNL1) was restored, resulting in the normalization of splicing pattern of SERCA1. This study validates the use of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene editing of repeat expansions.


October 23, 2019  |  

Nuclease-mediated gene editing by homologous recombination of the human globin locus.

Tal-effector nucleases (TALENs) are engineered proteins that can stimulate precise genome editing through specific DNA double-strand breaks. Sickle cell disease and ß-thalassemia are common genetic disorders caused by mutations in ß-globin, and we engineered a pair of highly active TALENs that induce modification of 54% of human ß-globin alleles near the site of the sickle mutation. These TALENS stimulate targeted integration of therapeutic, full-length beta-globin cDNA to the endogenous ß-globin locus in 19% of cells prior to selection as quantified by single molecule real-time sequencing. We also developed highly active TALENs to human ?-globin, a pharmacologic target in sickle cell disease therapy. Using the ß-globin and ?-globin TALENs, we generated cell lines that express GFP under the control of the endogenous ß-globin promoter and tdTomato under the control of the endogenous ?-globin promoter. With these fluorescent reporter cell lines, we screened a library of small molecule compounds for their differential effect on the transcriptional activity of the endogenous ß- and ?-globin genes and identified several that preferentially upregulate ?-globin expression.


October 23, 2019  |  

An online bioinformatics tool predicts zinc finger and TALE nuclease off-target cleavage.

Although engineered nucleases can efficiently cleave intracellular DNA at desired target sites, major concerns remain on potential ‘off-target’ cleavage that may occur throughout the genome. We developed an online tool: predicted report of genome-wide nuclease off-target sites (PROGNOS) that effectively identifies off-target sites. The initial bioinformatics algorithms in PROGNOS were validated by predicting 44 of 65 previously confirmed off-target sites, and by uncovering a new off-target site for the extensively studied zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) targeting C-C chemokine receptor type 5. Using PROGNOS, we rapidly interrogated 128 potential off-target sites for newly designed transcription activator-like effector nucleases containing either Asn-Asn (NN) or Asn-Lys (NK) repeat variable di-residues (RVDs) and 3- and 4-finger ZFNs, and validated 13 bona fide off-target sites for these nucleases by DNA sequencing. The PROGNOS algorithms were further refined by incorporating additional features of nuclease-DNA interactions and the newly confirmed off-target sites into the training set, which increased the percentage of bona fide off-target sites found within the top PROGNOS rankings. By identifying potential off-target sites in silico, PROGNOS allows the selection of more specific target sites and aids the identification of bona fide off-target sites, significantly facilitating the design of engineered nucleases for genome editing applications.


October 23, 2019  |  

Function-based identification of mammalian enhancers using site-specific integration.

The accurate and comprehensive identification of functional regulatory sequences in mammalian genomes remains a major challenge. Here we describe site-specific integration fluorescence-activated cell sorting followed by sequencing (SIF-seq), an unbiased, medium-throughput functional assay for the discovery of distant-acting enhancers. Targeted single-copy genomic integration into pluripotent cells, reporter assays and flow cytometry are coupled with high-throughput DNA sequencing to enable parallel screening of large numbers of DNA sequences. By functionally interrogating >500 kilobases (kb) of mouse and human sequence in mouse embryonic stem cells for enhancer activity we identified enhancers at pluripotency loci including NANOG. In in vitro-differentiated cardiomyocytes and neural progenitor cells, we identified cardiac enhancers and neuronal enhancers, respectively. SIF-seq is a powerful and flexible method for de novo functional identification of mammalian enhancers in a potentially wide variety of cell types.


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.


October 23, 2019  |  

Bioengineered AAV capsids with combined high human liver transduction in vivo and unique humoral seroreactivity.

Existing recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) serotypes for delivering in vivo gene therapy treatments for human liver diseases have not yielded combined high-level human hepatocyte transduction and favorable humoral neutralization properties in diverse patient groups. Yet, these combined properties are important for therapeutic efficacy. To bioengineer capsids that exhibit both unique seroreactivity profiles and functionally transduce human hepatocytes at therapeutically relevant levels, we performed multiplexed sequential directed evolution screens using diverse capsid libraries in both primary human hepatocytes in vivo and with pooled human sera from thousands of patients. AAV libraries were subjected to five rounds of in vivo selection in xenografted mice with human livers to isolate an enriched human-hepatotropic library that was then used as input for a sequential on-bead screen against pooled human immunoglobulins. Evolved variants were vectorized and validated against existing hepatotropic serotypes. Two of the evolved AAV serotypes, NP40 and NP59, exhibited dramatically improved functional human hepatocyte transduction in vivo in xenografted mice with human livers, along with favorable human seroreactivity profiles, compared with existing serotypes. These novel capsids represent enhanced vector delivery systems for future human liver gene therapy applications. Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier Inc.


October 23, 2019  |  

Adeno-associated virus genome population sequencing achieves full vector genome resolution and reveals human-vector chimeras

Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV)-based gene therapy has entered a phase of clinical translation and commercialization. Despite this progress, vector integrity following production is often overlooked. Compromised vectors may negatively impact therapeutic efficacy and safety. Using single molecule, real-time (SMRT) sequencing, we can comprehensively profile packaged genomes as a single intact molecule and directly assess vector integrity without extensive preparation. We have exploited this methodology to profile all heterogeneic populations of self-complementary AAV genomes via bioinformatics pipelines and have coined this approach AAV-genome population sequencing (AAV-GPseq). The approach can reveal the relative distribution of truncated genomes versus full-length genomes in vector preparations. Preparations that seemingly show high genome homogeneity by gel electrophoresis are revealed to consist of less than 50% full-length species. With AAV-GPseq, we can also detect many reverse-packaged genomes that encompass sequences originating from plasmid backbone, as well as sequences from packaging and helper plasmids. Finally, we detect host-cell genomic sequences that are chimeric with inverted terminal repeat (ITR)-containing vector sequences. We show that vector populations can contain between 1.3% and 2.3% of this type of undesirable genome. These discoveries redefine quality control standards for viral vector preparations and highlight the degree of foreign products in rAAV-based therapeutic vectors.


October 23, 2019  |  

Cas9-mediated allelic exchange repairs compound heterozygous recessive mutations in mice.

We report a genome-editing strategy to correct compound heterozygous mutations, a common genotype in patients with recessive genetic disorders. Adeno-associated viral vector delivery of Cas9 and guide RNA induces allelic exchange and rescues the disease phenotype in mouse models of hereditary tyrosinemia type I and mucopolysaccharidosis type I. This approach recombines non-mutated genetic information present in two heterozygous alleles into one functional allele without using donor DNA templates.


September 22, 2019  |  

Searching for convergent pathways in autism spectrum disorders: insights from human brain transcriptome studies.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most heritable neuropsychiatric conditions. The complex genetic landscape of the disorder includes both common and rare variants at hundreds of genetic loci. This marked heterogeneity has thus far hampered efforts to develop genetic diagnostic panels and targeted pharmacological therapies. Here, we give an overview of the current literature on the genetic basis of ASD, and review recent human brain transcriptome studies and their role in identifying convergent pathways downstream of the heterogeneous genetic variants. We also discuss emerging evidence on the involvement of non-coding genomic regions and non-coding RNAs in ASD.


September 22, 2019  |  

TACO produces robust multisample transcriptome assemblies from RNA-seq.

Accurate transcript structure and abundance inference from RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data is foundational for molecular discovery. Here we present TACO, a computational method to reconstruct a consensus transcriptome from multiple RNA-seq data sets. TACO employs novel change-point detection to demarcate transcript start and end sites, leading to improved reconstruction accuracy compared with other tools in its class. The tool is available at http://tacorna.github.io and can be readily incorporated into RNA-seq analysis workflows.


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