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  |  

Simultaneous non-contiguous deletions using large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases.

Toward achieving rapid and large scale genome modification directly in a target organism, we have developed a new genome engineering strategy that uses a combination of bioinformatics aided design, large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases. Using Cre recombinase we swapped a target 126-kb segment of the Escherichia coli genome with a 72-kb synthetic DNA cassette, thereby effectively eliminating over 54 kb of genomic DNA from three non-contiguous regions in a single recombination event. We observed complete replacement of the native sequence with the modified synthetic sequence through the action of the Cre recombinase and no competition from homologous recombination. Because of the versatility and high-efficiency of the Cre-lox system, this method can be used in any organism where this system is functional as well as adapted to use with other highly precise genome engineering systems. Compared to present-day iterative approaches in genome engineering, we anticipate this method will greatly speed up the creation of reduced, modularized and optimized genomes through the integration of deletion analyses data, transcriptomics, synthetic biology and site-specific recombination. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


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  |  

Efficient genome editing of a facultative thermophile using mesophilic spCas9.

Well-developed genetic tools for thermophilic microorganisms are scarce, despite their industrial and scientific relevance. Whereas highly efficient CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing is on the rise in prokaryotes, it has never been employed in a thermophile. Here, we apply Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (spCas9)-based genome editing to a moderate thermophile, i.e., Bacillus smithii, including a gene deletion, gene knockout via insertion of premature stop codons, and gene insertion. We show that spCas9 is inactive in vivo above 42 °C, and we employ the wide temperature growth range of B. smithii as an induction system for spCas9 expression. Homologous recombination with plasmid-borne editing templates is performed at 45-55 °C, when spCas9 is inactive. Subsequent transfer to 37 °C allows for counterselection through production of active spCas9, which introduces lethal double-stranded DNA breaks to the nonedited cells. The developed method takes 4 days with 90, 100, and 20% efficiencies for gene deletion, knockout, and insertion, respectively. The major advantage of our system is the limited requirement for genetic parts: only one plasmid, one selectable marker, and a promoter are needed, and the promoter does not need to be inducible or well-characterized. Hence, it can be easily applied for genome editing purposes in both mesophilic and thermophilic nonmodel organisms with a limited genetic toolbox and ability to grow at, or tolerate, temperatures of 37 and at or above 42 °C.


October 23, 2019  |  

A high quality assembly of the Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) genome reveals the structure of two sex determination regions.

Tilapias are the second most farmed fishes in the world and a sustainable source of food. Like many other fish, tilapias are sexually dimorphic and sex is a commercially important trait in these fish. In this study, we developed a significantly improved assembly of the tilapia genome using the latest genome sequencing methods and show how it improves the characterization of two sex determination regions in two tilapia species.A homozygous clonal XX female Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was sequenced to 44X coverage using Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) SMRT sequencing. Dozens of candidate de novo assemblies were generated and an optimal assembly (contig NG50 of 3.3Mbp) was selected using principal component analysis of likelihood scores calculated from several paired-end sequencing libraries. Comparison of the new assembly to the previous O. niloticus genome assembly reveals that recently duplicated portions of the genome are now well represented. The overall number of genes in the new assembly increased by 27.3%, including a 67% increase in pseudogenes. The new tilapia genome assembly correctly represents two recent vasa gene duplication events that have been verified with BAC sequencing. At total of 146Mbp of additional transposable element sequence are now assembled, a large proportion of which are recent insertions. Large centromeric satellite repeats are assembled and annotated in cichlid fish for the first time. Finally, the new assembly identifies the long-range structure of both a ~9Mbp XY sex determination region on LG1 in O. niloticus, and a ~50Mbp WZ sex determination region on LG3 in the related species O. aureus.This study highlights the use of long read sequencing to correctly assemble recent duplications and to characterize repeat-filled regions of the genome. The study serves as an example of the need for high quality genome assemblies and provides a framework for identifying sex determining genes in tilapia and related fish species.


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  |  

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  |  

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  |  

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.


September 22, 2019  |  

A chromosome conformation capture ordered sequence of the barley genome.

Cereal grasses of the Triticeae tribe have been the major food source in temperate regions since the dawn of agriculture. Their large genomes are characterized by a high content of repetitive elements and large pericentromeric regions that are virtually devoid of meiotic recombination. Here we present a high-quality reference genome assembly for barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). We use chromosome conformation capture mapping to derive the linear order of sequences across the pericentromeric space and to investigate the spatial organization of chromatin in the nucleus at megabase resolution. The composition of genes and repetitive elements differs between distal and proximal regions. Gene family analyses reveal lineage-specific duplications of genes involved in the transport of nutrients to developing seeds and the mobilization of carbohydrates in grains. We demonstrate the importance of the barley reference sequence for breeding by inspecting the genomic partitioning of sequence variation in modern elite germplasm, highlighting regions vulnerable to genetic erosion.


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.


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